From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Like a modern Ruth Benedict immersed in classical literature, Visser (Much Depends on Dinner
) examines what it really means, in the course of human interaction, to be thankful. Her kindly book turns on itself in an exhaustive but continually engrossing fashion. Beginning with the assumption that [g]ratitude must be freely given; otherwise, it might be a polite show, but it is not gratitude, Visser asks many questions of cultures East and West and provides a plethora of answers. The obscured and deeper meaning of giving thanks is probed through such divergent cultural markers as the work of Georg Simmel and Dickens; the Bible and Proust; Japanese sumimasen
, which is both a thanking and an apologizing, and C.C. Baxter in Bill Wilder's The Apartment
; Plato's Laws and Seneca's massive treatise on gift giving and the slipperiness of saying you're welcome in today's U.K. What is tipping all about? What is the etymological relationship between votive, vow, favors, grace and gratitude? What might the gestures of courtesy—the curtsy for example—be? Overall, this is a delightful and graceful gift of a book, for which any fortunate recipient will be thankful. (Nov. 19)
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About the Author
MARGARET VISSER is an award-winning author and essayist. Much Depends on Dinner was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times. The Rituals of Dinner won the IACP Literary Food Writing Award and the Jane Grigson Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent book, The Geometry of Love was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize. Margaret Visser taught classics at York University for 18 years and now devotes her time to research and writing. She lives in Toronto, Paris, and the south of France. Visit her online at www.margaretvisser.com