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Satire At Its Finest
on 28 October 2010
Satire has been around a long time. Juvenal observed that "It is difficult not to write satire." But it is difficult to write great satire. Most modern satire seems to me like a sermon by one of the Knox brothers...all preachy and exhorting, like recent politicians who tell us how and what to eat. Satire done right requires a keen sense of observation, wisdom, and wit. The Examined Life is outright hilarious.
Theodore Dalrymple's decades long documentation of societal ills pays off again in a novella filled with facetiousness as he follows a health addict through his daily ritual of protecting himself from life. Living life long or well is not the same thing as living long and well. We all know people like this (including, perhaps, a bit of ourselves) and it is fun to see the whole show. This is life lived in a health food store in the vitamin section. Nothing is safe from concern as the hero calls his local community council to ask about searching for radon in his apartment: "...after a long message telling me that the department was there to make life safe for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or disability...I spoke to someone with a disability, namely an inability to follow a logical argument." This is a belly bouncing, tear producing, hysterically funny book.
As a physician, I have had many discussions with my patients when they ask about the most recent vitamin du jour or over-the-counter cure for what ails you. When I tell them that vitamin X has been shown not only not to help what they are taking if for but, in fact, makes it worse, their frequent response is, "Well, they must not have taken enough."
Well, one can never get enough of Theodore Dalrymple. Improve your health and read The Examined Life. The fact that one also gets his excellent comedy, So Little Done, makes this book a steal.