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Sloth: The Seven Deadly Sins Hardcover – January 7, 2005

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Sloth: The Seven Deadly Sins + Gluttony (The Seven Deadly Sins) + Pride: The Seven Deadly Sins
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195166302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195166309
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not as stirring as lust, as satisfactory as gluttony or as maddening as anger, sloth rarely commands the passionate attention that the other six deadly sins do. Thanks to Wasserstein, however, sloth finally gets its due. In a hilarious parody of self-help manuals, she offers a book-inside-a-book how-to guide—Sloth: And How to Get It—on living a happy and guilt-free slothful life. The first step in becoming a sloth is to enter into "lethargiosis," a state which "breaks the cycle of excess energy and stored dreams." Her guide recommends a two-week course of slowly eliminating activity by counting activity grams and restricting your daily gram intake. She chides overachievers like Shakespeare and offers a sloth mantra: "S: Sit instead of stand, L: Let yourself go, O: Open your mouth, T: Toil no more, H: Happiness is within me." Sloths in training will learn the 10 commandments of sloth ("Do not wash," "Do not clean up"), the top 10 lies about sloth ("Sloth leads to mental atrophy") as well as strategies for maintaining slothfulness through diet, work (when you have to do it) and sex. Wasserstein's rapid-fire comic prose offers the perfect satire on a culture that continually invents more ways of moving less (television remotes, cell phones) in order to be blissfully slothful.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Playwright and essayist Wasserstein carries forward a truly inspired series--incisive musings on the seven deadly sins by Francine Prose (gluttony), Joseph Epstein (envy), Robert A. F. Thurman (anger), and Simon Blackburn (lust)--by offering a sly, hilarious parody of self-help books. Wasserstein claims to have tried every self-improvement plan known to addled Americans, from the Atkins diet to getting in touch with her inner child, until discovering the solution, Sloth, a treatise she now generously shares with her readers. And what a cleverly subversive send-up this is. Recognizing that life is unfair and that there's not a darn thing you can do about it, the guru of sloth recommends doing nothing. To that end, the sloth advocate offers 5 (10 is just too demanding) commandments--"Sit instead of stand. Let yourself go. Open your mouth. Toil no more. Happiness is within me"--and a program for achieving absolute indolence, the secret of a stress-free life. Splendidly witty and on target, Wasserstein's droll paean to sloth is best read lying down. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Wendy Wasserstein's little volume on sloth fits that description.
Kerry Walters
Some books are just not to be published, but if they ARE published everyone can see it was a bad mistake.
Alexander Suraev
I kept hoping for the book to go from a dwaddle to a trot, but it was the same yawn.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on February 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I almost never give a book just one star in my reviews. If a book is so bad that it rates no more than a single star, I generally leave it unreviewed. The only times I violate this rule are when I run across books that not only are bad but also, in my judgment, harmfully bad. Wendy Wasserstein's little volume on sloth fits that description.

Wasserstein (who, since this book, unfortunately has died) was a brilliant comic playwright. On stage, her satiric wit in plays such as "The Heidi Chronicles" is wonderful. But why she was asked (or allowed) by the 7 Deadly Sins series editors to write on the vice of sloth is a mystery. She's clearly out of her depth. Alone of all the other authors, she has no obvious qualifications.

Instead of thinking deeply and writing cogently about sloth, Wasserstein shoots for the easy laugh. Her approach to sloth is to write a mock-manual on how to cultivate it, filled with faux easy-steps-to-laziness advice. Given that contemporary American culture is so obsessed with busyness and careerism that fewer and fewer of us actually know how to enjoy leisure time, Wasserstein's jabs at the fast-paced and frenetic life are well-taken.

The problem is that you get the point in the first five pages, and after that you look, without success, for substance. Even worse, Wasserstein mischaracterizes sloth from the get-go. Sloth isn't merely laziness; in fact, it's not clear that sloth is laziness at all. Sloth, as commentators from the desert fathers in the first centuries of the Christian era to psychologists and philosophers today maintain, is a form of despair, the inability to feel joy or gratitude. Sloth can lead to a dispirited lack of energy that leads to behavior frequently thought of as lazy.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The New York Public Library and Oxford University Press conspired to develop a lecture series in which some of the most interesting modern minds ponder the most ancient human foibles: the Seven Deadly Sins. The lectures were given at the New York Public Library and the authors were permitted (encouraged?) to rework them for publication. Wasserstein's SLOTH and Robert Thurman's ANGER are the latest titles to join the series (ENVY and GLUTTONY were published in 2003; LUST and GREED in 2004; PRIDE is promised for this spring and hopefully will come before the fall).

Although I've bought all of the available titles, I chose to read SLOTH first (always having had a soft spot for this sin). It is not surprising that Wasserstein, an accomplished playwright, chose to adopt a persona to convey her message-that of a sloth guru, the author of a anti-self-help book entitled "Sloth: And How to Get It." The guru is so slothful s/he hasn't gotten around to forming a clear or specific sexual identity (At college, "I played sports on both men's and women's teams, and I had also danced the young male and female lead in the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker"; p. 19) Anyone who has tried all the new diet books, attended a 12-step group, guiltily read PEOPLE at the supermarket check-out line, or gotten caught up in church/synagogue, school, or office politics, will enjoy the many jabs Wasserstein delivers to institutions and champions advocating perfectability. SLOTH has the potential to become a modern satirical classic like C.S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS or Ambrose Bierce's THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY. However, unlike Lewis's great work, the jokes are mostly superficial, univalent, and very repetitive.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sloth, ah yes, sloth. (By the way, both pronunciations, sloth with a long "o" to rhyme with "both," and sloth with a short "o" to rhyme with "moth" are correct.) It's one of the seven deadly sins and this is one of seven books on them commissioned by the Oxford University Press and the New York Public Library. The books are all short and neat and beautifully presented. Each grew out of lectures sponsored by Oxford and the library.

Here we have Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein championing the cause of sloth as she parodies self-help tomes (she has apparently read a few) while satirizing the mass culture (and of course herself) to the reader's delight.

Wasserstein is not so much knockdown funny as she is entertaining. There are a few belly laughs and a number of chuckles, but mostly there is the sense that she is actually saying something of value about who we are and where we're going.

Clearly Wasserstein knows human foibles and she knows the seduction of the mass culture and especially that nasty admonition from others (especially your parents) to "make something of yourself." Ironically, while Wasserstein has indeed made something of herself, here--tongue only partially in cheek--she strongly advises you to just hang out on the couch. She has an "Activity Gram Counter" that limits you to 50 grams of activity a day. Eating a Krispy Kreme donut along with Sleepytime tea costs you 5 grams, the same as watching the Cartoon Network on TV, while reading the New York Times will set you back 30 grams. Not to worry, reading People Magazine rates a minus 5 grams, but watch out for those "Great turn-of-the-century Russian novels," the reading of which costs you a whopping 100 grams a session.
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