In this week’s TLS – A note from the Editor
We should perhaps not be adding to the discussion of obesity at this time of the year. The evidence on the summer streets and beaches is reminder enough of what men and women can do to their bodies or, as Barbara J. King describes this week, what the food industry has too often cajoled, encouraged and bribed them to do. King is reviewing three books that show, in different ways, how sugar, salt and fat make us want to eat sugar, salt and fat. A cycle of desire connects “allure” and “bliss points” and can send consumers “over the moon”. Every food problem is a food industry opportunity. Parental fear of processed meats leads to three-year-olds beating a billion-dollar path to a place where, at some summer in the future, they will not want to be.
BlyssPlus pills and the murkier content of minced meat have already played a part in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian sequence of novels that began in 2003 with Oryx and Crake. Ruth Scurr recalls the SecretBurgers chain, in which cat fur and mouse tails are just some of the problems for consumers in the “pleeblands”. MaddAddam, the latest volume, is acclaimed for its bleakness, humour and intelligence, and its success at “enacting the transition from oral to written history within a fictional universe”.
Obesity is only one of many nasty traits passed down the generations. Andrew Scull considers the peculiar desire that our children should repeat our own lives, the paradox by which, though many of us take pride in how different we are from our own parents, we are “endlessly sad at how different our children are from us”. He is reviewing Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, a collection of “wrenching, often heart-breaking” cases in which parents confront various differences – dumbness, dwarfism and dyslexia – for which life has left them unprepared.
In Renaissance Florence it was fashionable to decorate gardens with statues of dwarves. Later came the ornamental hermits and the garden gnomes; all of them, as Jennifer Potter says, “great dividers of taste”.