BRAINFOOD

A PROVOCATIVE EXPLORATION OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WHAT YOU EAT AND HOW YOU THINK

Not, as the title might suggest, a prescription in the American self-help mode for foods or nutrients that can or might or are claimed to make your brain work better or longer. Instead, Bourre (a French medical researcher and author of popular French books on neurology and nutrition) has put together an odd mix of information, exhortation, and opinion about the impact of diet on the brain. Bourre includes: straightforward technical description of the apparatus of taste and, at great length, of the brain's architecture, elements, and workings; basic and peripheral material on the essential nutrients; offhand observations on topics as tangential as the possibility of grafting human neurons on other species; questionable pronouncements (``Obviously meat is the best type of food to build muscle in humans, brains to develop the brain, and kidneys for the kidney''); and gushy prattle (``You cannot fully appreciate good food and good wine unless you're properly seated in a dining room, surrounded by beautiful paintings, magnificent lithographs or engravings''; ``The fragrance of a great meal, like a great perfume, is a work of art, comparable to a Gainsborough landscape, a Rodin sculpture, a Beethoven sonata, an Aubusson tapestry...''). The author begins by announcing his commitment to cuisine, gastronomy, and ``dining pleasure''; castigating vegetarians, ``killjoys,'' and ``fanatical dieticians of...less cholesterol, less fat, less sugar''; and associating presumed negative characteristics of other nationalities with their variously un-French, and thus inelegant, diets. The bulk of the book, however, not only fails to support these prejudices but actually recommends less saturated fat, less fat, and less sugar. Bourre has much to say and to suggest about the brain and its use of nutrients, but too often you won't know what to do with the information—or even what to make of it—because the context or connections or conclusions or applications just aren't there.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-09281-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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