A little of what you fancy

From The Guardian:

Book Here's a book perfectly timed for the season of self-flagellation. The cover shows the face of a woman who has been gorging on chocolate, the shameful evidence trickling from her vampiric lips. It's an image calculated to make anyone who has over-indulged of late, in whatever way, commit to a regime of monkish abstinence. Enough of sex, drugs and profiteroles: now's the time for fasting and press-ups. And where better to start than with a sermon on the sins of the flesh?

Disappointingly, however, Paul Martin doesn't believe that pleasure need be bad for us. In fact, his book ends with a list of recommendations for the wily hedonist – ways to enjoy ourselves without feeling guilty about it. Far from condemning the pursuit of pleasure, Martin shows how unavoidable it is: encoded in our minds and genes. And rather than rail against the licentiousness of contemporary life, he commemorates the sensation-seekers of centuries past, whose excesses make our own seem tame in comparison. Though he doesn't deny the dangers of addiction, his account of drug use down the ages quietly defuses tabloid hysteria. Cannabis? Queen Victoria took it to relieve her period pains. Cocaine? Freud prescribed it to patients and used it himself for relief from migraines. Opium? The users range from Marcus Aurelius to Robert Louis Stevenson. Alcohol? Churchill routinely drank a bottle of champagne a day, whereas Hitler was teetotal – nuff said.

More here.