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Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream Paperback – May 22, 2007
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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"This is a rapacious, capacious and almost insane tale. I love Jason Fagone for recognizing that eating contests make for excellent drama, and I love him for having the tenacity to explore his topic as deeply as he does here, and with such glimmering prose. And as a former speed-eating champion myself (I won a pie-eating contest in high school, beating out a young man who later became a Navy SEAL), I devoured every word." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Last American Man (an NBCC finalist) and Eat, Pray, Love
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
This book is essentially a collection of profiles of the sport's top eaters. I say sport because these competitors tend to take eating seriously.
Fagone spends a year on the competetive eating circuit, getting to know eating's biggest stomachs and more importantly, finding the back story that explains why (why oh why?) someone would shovel food down their throats as fast as they can. There's definitely some money in this for a few of the best eaters, but most of the odd characters in the book are in it for something else. That's the big mystery.
In anyone else's hands, competetive eating would come across as a crass carnival where gluttons get fatter and even a person's death can seem humorous, like some news of the weird clip. But Fagone puts a very human face on the sport through his extensive travels with Dave "Coondog" O'Karma, and through interviews with the likes of Sonya "the black widow" Thomas.
But he also gets at something much bigger -- what the exponential rise of this sport says about our country and its nickname as the land of plenty. He fishes out the hypocroses among the officials that run the contests and never loses sight of the bigger truth that these contests are usually marketing events for food producers.
Overall, brace yourself for some brilliant reporting, a fast-paced, interesting narrative, and some colorful people who may just be your neighbors. An in a completely unexpected turn, this book is the first I've ever read while riding a stationary bike at the gym. Best motivation ever.
Frankly, some of the details are just weird or hysterical (dunking hot dogs in liquid so that they go down easier - yuck) and yet it's all nicely detailed and believable. One thing that is not evident from the cover is that the story is not just of the business of competitive eating, which I knew nothing about and which he covers well, but of America's huge appetites for everything. I found this aspect of the book surprisingly thought provoking. I say surprisingly, because I really just thought it would be about obese guys eating hot dogs. But it actually made me really think about these people, and why they do this to themselves, and more importantly, why we as a country do it - we just consume, consume, consume.
It's one of the few books that I've read in a few years where I think the title doesn't explain the book well, and a different one might have lent itself better to the actual material inside.
Fagone straddles the line between disgusted chronicler of modern American gluttony and sympathetic ear for competitive eaters, men who have turned toward a "sport" for a moment of fame on ESPN, an escape from their banal and dreary existences. The author does a fantastic job painting vivid pictures of his subjects, detailed descriptions that are both harsh and flattering, candid yet empathetic portraits of men who stuff their faces for our entertainment, and their own egos.
In sum, the writing and tale is superb. This book does not make me want to watch competitive eating, far from it, but it does make me want to read more Jason Fagone.
OK, maybe I'll watch the Nathan's Challenge on the 4th of July, but through a much different set of lenses.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Oh my. I almost couldn't get past some of the chapters. A good character study of the fringe element that is competitive eating. The book got a little long and repetitive. Read morePublished on September 22, 2013 by Weekly Reader
I purchased this used book as a gift for my son (we are avid followers of the July 4 Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island). Read morePublished on November 16, 2011 by Barbara Moran
I am shocked at all of the 5 star reviews! This book is poorly written-jumps around from different subjects and venues. Read morePublished on February 11, 2010 by Jenny Baker
I loved this book. Fagone writes in a style that's as engaging and erudite as Malcolm Gladwell and David Foster Wallace, and he brings an excitement and awe to a subject that many... Read morePublished on September 24, 2007 by mungo181
HORSEMEN OF THE ESOPHAGUS: COMPETITIVE EATING AND THE BIG FAT AMERICAN DREAM follows the author's journey to twenty-seven eating contests on two continents, from the U.S. Read morePublished on July 27, 2006 by Midwest Book Review
Competitive eating has to be one of the signs of the collapse of American culture. Or, is it? For one year Jason Fagone explores the cesspool of commercial gluttony and comes... Read morePublished on June 2, 2006 by John