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with, and is often seduced by, imagination . A kind of nostalgic fiction, Haussmann is a novel in the classic, sweeping style of Balzac or Hugo, yet it maintains its modernity. It is vainglorious past as seen through the scrim of a pedestrian and not-toocynical present. By turns hilarious and magical, Haussmann is, in the end, entirely enchanting. (PH) Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic by Robert Pool Oxford University Press, 2001, 292 pp., $27.50 Freelance science writer Robert Pool's latest book combines a large number of different goals and accomplishes most of them admirably weU. He writes analyticaUy, speculatively, passionately and kindly, with an interest in individuals as weU as demographic trends. He reviews over a century's worth of medical and pubUc opinion, starting from a time when the most up-to-date medical advice was to be weU padded: twenty to fifty pounds overweight by current medical standards . Pool discusses the sudden and complete reversal of that attitude in the 1930s on the basis of insurancecompany data and foUows the twists and turns of arguments about ideal weight since men. A chapter of his book is devoted to the shoddy track record of diet drugs of the twentieth century, with their long-term ineffectiveness , health-endangering side effects and potential for creating conflicts of interest in the medical profession . Page for page, the majority of Fat is devoted toexplainingwhy the amount of fat stored in the human body is not what it is widely believed to be, a simple matter of eating and exercise decisions, of having or not having the discipline to balance the energy equation of calories-in and caloriesout . For at least half a century, some researchers have postulated the existence ofhomeostaticphysiological systems designed to keep the body's fat stores at a constant level ("setpoint") by adjusting appetite and metabolism. The climax of this narrative thread comes with the discovery of the leptin gene in 1994. Leptin is a hormone created by fat tissue and carried in the blood to receptors in the brain, where it participates in a complex scheme of appetite regulation. Pool synthesizes a vast amount of experimental evidence and presents it concisely and lucidly, even dramaticaUy, highlighting the personal stories ofthe investigators and their conflicts. Pool isn't one of the recent generation of fat-acceptance advocates (they include doctors and scientists as weU as civU-rights agitators) who argue that the health risks of obesity have been exaggerated, that its causes are biological or that fat people should be regarded more as an oppressed minority than a medicaUy or moraUy diseased population. On the contrary, Pool considers obesity a pubhc health crisis on the same order as air poUution and urges the adoption of public policies to prevent it. To support his case he considers the example of the Pima tribe of Arizona. In the nineteenth century they were lean farmers and warriors, eating mainly wheat, beans, squash and food gathered from the desert. Now theyhave a more typical American lifestyle and are almost uniformly obese, with high rates of diabetes. 200 ยท The Missouri Review EventuaUy, without ceasing to be carefully analytical, Pool becomes emotional and somewhat ambivalent. He has argued throughout against "the simplistic idea that aU fat people are gluttons or sloths." Yet he worries that removing the stigma of obesity might cause there to be more of it in the world. He cautions against assuming that the statisticaUy higher morbidity associated with obesity is a simple cause-and-effect situation, yet heoccasionallyslipsintounsupported assumptions ofhis own. Pool doesn't claim to have aU the answers. He acknowledges, for instance ,thataculturalshiftawayfromfat phobia would have at least some good effects, such as reducing anorexic and bulimic disorders. These are "tradeoffs ," he says. Readers famUiar with the controversies in obesity research wiU find points on which to differ with Pool. But he is almost always reasonable. (JB) The Complete Short Stories ofMarcel Proust Compiled and translated by Joachim Neugroschel Cooper Square Press, 2001, 201 pp., $25.99 The dainty side of Proust can be off-putting. Whether lugubrious or chit-chatty, there is an abundance of exposition in his fiction: the colors of flowers, the scents of wine...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 200-201
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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