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NEVER SATISFIED: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat by Hillel Schwartz

NEVER SATISFIED: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat


Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 1422391450
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

An old-fashioned anecdotal compendium about fatness over 150 years of American history. Nothing in this book is slim: even the notes run to over 100 pages. The impressive amount of historical research--the author is a Yale PhD in history--focuses on specific anecdotes about how Americans feel and felt about what they weigh. Schwartz's prose is appropriately orotund, and these pages are as stuffed with adjectives as a cocktail olive with pimiento. Schwartz's keen sense of humor keeps all this stuff about weight from being weighty. Although the subject is dietetics, some lurid tales here seem to stray from the point. P.T. Barnum's hunt for ""fat boys and human skeletons,"" while interesting in itself, does not have much application to everyday American life at the time. Moreover, Schwartz might have explored more thoroughly the role of Europe as the source of Fads and fashions regarding diet, rather than isolating American ideals and paranoias about weight to such an extent. Because it includes much peripheral material, this book can be read as a kind of general-store catalogue of diverting, often weird anecdotes about almost anything having to do with the shape of American bodies from 1830 to the present. As entertainment it succeeds beyond dispute, although as serious history it reveals a want of discrimination between what is truly significant and what is merely colorful copy. The main message of this jovial parade of stories is that ""fat is fine"" and the world errs in despising fat people. The author speaks with passionate eloquence on his subject, like a pudgy John the Baptist crying in the wilderness. His arguments are so convincing, in fact that the reader has the urge to reply, ""In that case, pass the ice cream over here!