THE HUNGRY YEARS by William Leith


Confessions of a Food Addict
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British journalist Leith is a fat man talking, and no jolly Falstaff is he in this confessional binge.

Leith proffers a bellyful of kvetching about his own weight. (Example: “This morning I take a fat shower, squirming around in the suds like an oversized cherub. Fatly, I towel myself dry.”) Most of this memoir of excess poundage is less about the endemic problem and more about his being in a state of fatitude, being bloated, outsized, obese, corpulent, being a tub, a blob, a pudding. Not enjoying it, Leith followed the path forged by Welles, Brando, Belushi and Fatty Arbuckle, guys who certainly lived large. Girl friends come and go in this Niagara of solipsistic, outsize despair, this torrent of fat talk enveloping everything. It’s bellyaching big time as our often witty author grows too big for his Sansabelt britches. Not alone in fatness, he experiences “a small frisson of horrified recognition” as he spies a large lady swaddled in an outfit that “looks like a nomad’s yurt that has been ripped from its moorings in a storm.” Everybody scarfs too many fries, the sugary starch twice steeped in fat. Maybe it all started when humanity switched from hunting to farming all those carbohydrates the late Dr. Atkins railed against. It was in Dr. Atkins’s diet that the author placed faith. Other weight-loss programs, he decided, were merely part of a vast carb conspiracy. No toast or spuds, but rather cheese, steak and eggs, along with the avocado and berries, is what he ate. In place of the carbs, he also partook of coke, booze and painkillers—until he collapsed. Maybe, he figured, the solution lay elsewhere. He interviewed, to no effect, a French philosopher. Eventually, he turned to therapy. Perhaps a bit of pasta along with the 70 or 80 hours of psychotherapy (so far) can ameliorate compulsions acquired long ago.

Much too deep contemplation of his navel, even for a skilled writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2005
ISBN: 1-592-40155-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Gotham Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2005