THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE by Lionel Tiger

THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Here, Tiger (Anthropology/Rutgers; The Manufacture of Evil, 1987, etc.) offers observations on our seeking of pleasure and its prehistoric roots. ``Pleasure matters,'' Tiger asserts. ``The subject is hot.'' Aiming to catch the drift of the 90's, he contends that ``pleasure is an evolutionary entitlement.'' Food, sex, drugs, power, and, more interestingly, bearing children ``are as much related to our history as a species and products of it as they are products of our invention,'' he convincingly argues. The taste for sugar, for instance, was critical to primitive gatherers in sorting out what and what not to eat. But today the craving for sweets has outlived its function, and the pleasure derived from refined sugar carries a price. On the other hand, Tiger explains, power gives humans and primates chemically measurable physiological ``benefits.'' The author advocates ``a balance sheet of fun as well as an agenda of function,'' and claims that generally governmental ``censors are in fact violating a law of nature.'' Yet, he's against legalizing drugs because ``the human central pleasure system is too avid, too frail.'' Tiger's attempt to speak to a broad audience means that what information he provides comes in the form of cutely titled (``That Old Gang Rape of Mine,'' ``Ear, Ear''), rambling passages. Moreover, his countless personal references offer little more than a series of dropped names (Avignon, Bordeaux, and Siena as ``midsize ambitious dining towns''). Nor does the slapdash writing style help (``The bounteous body seems more desirable to men, and not only in industrial societies, either''). Certainly, Tiger's stated ambition ``to assert and establish the moral, scientific, and political authority of pleasure'' proves far too broad and too complex. Pleasure? Look elsewhere for thoughts grounded in the ice-cold wake of a decade during which there seemed no shortage of those pursuing their ``entitlement'' of pleasure.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1992
ISBN: 0-316-84543-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1991