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Envy: The Seven Deadly Sins (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities) Hardcover – August 28, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Epstein's recent book on snobbery has met with great acclaim, making him uniquely suited to the task of analyzing envy, since snobbery is based on its cultivation, and, indeed, Epstein is a witty and thoughtful elucidator of this covert and poisonous state of mind. Of the seven sins, Epstein observes, envy is the most common and insidious and the least enjoyable. He discusses various types of envy, the differences between women's and men's envy, Freud's preoccupation with it, and worlds in which envy rages (the arts and academia may be the worst). Epstein confesses to his own struggles with envy over the course of his musings, which grow in gravitas as he moves beyond individuals to consider how envy between nations leads to war and how anti-Semitism can be interpreted as a particularly malignant manifestation of this deadly sin.
Novelist and critic Prose brings her keen interest in our conflicted relationship with our bodies to her creatively, even voraciously researched and elegantly argued inquiry into the paradoxes of gluttony, a sin writ large on the body and, therefore, impossible to conceal. Prose notes that the term is rarely used now that overeating is viewed as a psychological and health problem rather than a "crime against God." Equally conversant in religious and secular perspectives, Prose turns to theology and art to illuminate the curious history of a sin rooted in a behavior essential to survival. She traces the line between gourmandism and binging and ponders the increase in obesity in our consumer culture and the stigma of being overweight in a society that loves excess in everything but body size. Gluttons now sin against "prevailing standards of beauty and health," and the punishment is living hell. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
He points out that ' envy' of all the vices has the least positive to be said about it. About this I am not so sure. Surely most of us are ashamed of envying especially when the other person or persons envied is someone close to us who we should want the good fortune of as much as our own. But envy is not necessarily the worst of sins. We after all often by envying express a certain kind of admiration , and recognition of the value others have which we would like to. Envy becomes truly evil only when it moves us to action to truly hurt another or deprive them of their good. And even then in many instances such ' action'( Think of various kinds of ' fair competition') is not necessarily sinful.
Epstein points out that we are jealous of what is our own, and envious of what is others.(which we ourselves do not have) Epstein writes a series of short essays some of which deal with qualities and characteristics of others that we envy, Shakespeare's ' this man's art and that man's scope'.
One central point on the whole subject of envy is how foolish we so often are in envying others when they have their own life and story, and fate. Often we envy someone who we believe to have a better fortune than our own only to learn that they have sufferings and troubles beyond those we imagined.
'Envy' is a seemingly inescapable element of our nature. And this little book may do an enviable job of helping us understand it a bit better.
And this said with the minor praise of one who might envy Mr.Epstein's talent and success which is considerable.
Of all the books I've read in the Seven Sins series so far, this has provided the easiest read. It's easy to follow, and the author makes his points with a humorous edge, and without delving too much into inner psychiatry or politics.
In terms of the sin of envy, the book tends to disappoint, because it does not reach a thesis statement through research, rather the author quotes authors and philosophers to validate his preconceived notions about envy. We never learn WHY envy is so potent a force, as the author states; the question is left in the air. We are told that wealth and power is envied universally and this is the reason 9/11 and Jewish persecution happened. Non-western non-materialistic cultures do not conform to this worldview. Till recently Hindu India was a saving oriented culture of simplicity, and so was China 30 years ago, till western corporations made inroads in both ancient lands. The author repeatedly tells us that a simplistic lifestyle and the pursuit of non-materialistic values is simply not possible. Hence the author falls short in explaining the nature of envy.
His identification of the envying kind is also vague.
However, there is merit in his words when he outlines the manifestations of envy, and of the differing nature of male and female envy. I am however, surprised that no one objected to the politically incorrect nature of male and female envy, which he states.
What the book really conveys is the Jewish worldview, which not surprisingly conforms to the Qur'anic statements about them. The author makes no bones about the privileged status he feels as a Jew, which makes him different from everyone else, while being a part of the great nation of the U.S.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the top reasons I bought the book was the cute cartoons. I wanted to copy them and send them to others I thought might enjoy them. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Stanley
Epstein had just the right combination of humor and seriousness of subject. I enjoyed this book and learned a lot.Published on December 8, 2012 by marcyg
Epstein is one of my favorite essayist. He knows his genre and writes with wit & insight. Although we come from different backgrounds I get frequent eureka moments from the pages... Read morePublished on November 16, 2012 by Kent F. Cohea
"The entire advertising industry...can be viewed as little more than a vast and intricate envy-creating machine. Read morePublished on January 28, 2009 by Rebecca of Amazon
Cheery to the point of complacency, Epstein has little to say about this rancorous emotion. If envy is indeed a deadly sin, Epstein knows nothing about how and why it kills. Read morePublished on July 15, 2008 by Always Reading
So wrote the poet W.H. Auden in his "Many Happy Returns," and Joseph Epstein takes it as the exhortatory epigram to this little book on envy. Read morePublished on February 24, 2008 by Kerry Walters
The Kindle version was very poor. I don't know how this was scanned, but the font was difficult to read at any size; dictionary look-ups were unreliable because of the way they... Read morePublished on January 21, 2008 by Boote
The joy of reading anything written by Mr. Epstein is that he reads all the obscure tomes and summarizes them appropriately in context for the readers. Read morePublished on August 14, 2006 by Amazon Customer