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About the Author
Paul Insel, Ph.D. is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He has been the principal investigator of numerous NIH studies involving health education, mental health, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and nutrition. He has authored 14 books and more than 100 articles.
Walton T. Roth, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford Uni-versity School of Medicine, and Chief of the Psychiatric Consultation Service at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He is author of over 150 research articles about how the body reacts to stress and psychological disorders. His clinical specialties are the treatment of anxiety disor-ders and psychiatric consultation in the general hospital.
Read an Excerpt
She walks down the street with a swing in her step and a lift to her head. She radiates allure as if followed by a personal spotlight. She may be tall or short, slim or pneumatically curvaceous, dressed discreetly or ostentatiously—it matters not. Her gait, her composure, the very tilt of her head is an ode to grace and self-possession that makes her beautiful whatever her actual features reveal. She is Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Monica Bellucci. She is the Italian woman glorified on celluloid and on the nightly passeggiata you see on your Italian vacations—but she is no figment of the adman’s imagination. She is real and gracing the streets of every city, town, and village in Italy right now. She is the embodiment of bella figura and she cuts an elegant dash through our mundane modern world.
When I arrived in Florence, I could not have been further from this ideal. Decades of working at the computer had rounded my shoulders, years of looking down into a laptop or phone had slackened my jawline and compressed my neck. The stress of a demanding job and big-city life had hardened my features. My eyes were fixed to the ground as I hurried through life, with no time to throw anyone a smile let alone a kind word. Single for years, my loneliness had calcified. I didn’t so much strut with confidence as cringe down the street.
A year in Florence—and discovering bella figura—changed my life.
The concept of bella figura is about making every aspect of life as beautiful as it can be, whether in Rome, London, New York, or Vancouver. It is a notion at once romantic and practical. It encompasses everything we do, from what we eat to how we get to work in the mornings. It’s about sensuality and sexuality. It’s about banishing the stress that, no matter how few carbs we eat and how vigorously we exercise, means our bodies are so shut down we can only ever look harrowed and pinched. Bella figura is about generosity and abundance, not meanness or deprivation. The Italian woman who lives the bella figura knows the importance of beautiful manners and a graceful demeanor, not as a nod to a bygone era, but as a means of “making the face” until it fits—it’s a proven fact that if we smile genuinely often enough, we release the happy hormone serotonin. All of this improves not only our quality of life but also the quantity of years we have.
While this book will touch on details about already well-documented benefits of the Mediterranean diet, what follows in these pages is, instead, the story of a journey. Ten years ago I moved to Florence quite by accident, and that first year I spent there changed my life, my body, and the shape of my heart. I believe that what I learned can change yours too.
Chapter 1 - Festina lente or How to Slow Down
It all began with rain. It fell in heavy sheets as I was lined up waiting for a taxi at Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence. The line was not under cover and I didn’t have an umbrella. By the time I got into the cab, I was soaking wet.
I was in a city where I didn’t know a soul, unanchored from work, friends and family, a piece of human flotsam washed up in its Renaissance gutters. All I had, clutched in my damp hand, was the address of the apartment where I was to stay. As I reached the top of the line, I uncrumpled it, showed it to the cab driver, and got in. He grunted and pulled out, frowning at the thought of a puddle forming at my feet behind him.
We swept through the slick cobbled streets. The heating was on full blast and my sodden coat was fogging up the cab. I peered through steamed-up windows at the stone walls of ancient buildings rising up on either side of the road, water dripping off their deep eaves. The streets were deserted—it was January 2 and the city was still sleeping off its hangover. My own New Year’s Eve had been spent stuffing boxes into corners in my parents’ apartment under the beady eye of my mother, who said nothing but whose every breath asked me what on earth I thought I was doing, giving up a good apartment and a job so prestigious it came with embossed business cards to move my possessions into her already overcrowded apartment and flit off to Florence to play at being a writer. I may as well have announced I was going to Italy to run a brothel.
The cab driver slowed down, gestured to the left and grunted. I turned around to take in the majestic proportions of a colonnaded piazza, a cathedral looming up at the end of the square, its white façade reflected in the glistening ground. My mouth fell open.
It wasn’t just the beauty of the square, but the theatricality of it too; the way the eye was led to the façade of the church. “Si chiama Santa Croce,” the driver said. Then, indicating the statue of a scowling man, he said, “E quello li è Dante.” Dante looked as grumpy and bad-tempered as my cab driver, yet I was cheered. The man credited with inventing the modern Italian language in his Divine Comedy was standing right there, holding a book in his stony hands, looking at me with his basilisk stare. It was a good omen.
The basilica stood solidly behind Dante’s statue, the entire square constructed to induce awe in the insignificant human approaching it, as well as delight and marvel in the beauty. It was my first brush with the perfection of Italian presentation, the importance of the harmony of form, the genius of the impact on the onlooker, the moral weight given to beauty. It was bella figura embodied in stone and marble.
We crossed a nondescript bridge. This time the cabbie pointed to the right where the Ponte Vecchio squatted over the river on low arches. Lit up against the night, its row of matchbox shops hanging over the water, it shimmered like a dream. I took it in, wide-eyed, as we drove on, swinging into the Oltrarno, the other side of the River Arno from the historic center, winding through cobbled streets to pull up at my new front door.
“Eccoci,” the driver said as he heaved himself from his seat. I paid and stepped out straight into a puddle. I hurried into the entrance hall, taking in its cavernous proportions as I dripped onto the flagstone floor. A flight of wide stone stairs twisted off to the right and I lugged my bags up, stopping to rest on a narrow bench on what felt like the 108th floor, panting. It was still a long way from the top. The steps dipped in the middle, worn by centuries of feet: the building dated from the seventeenth century, the silence thick with ghosts. I resumed my climb and finally stood in front of a Tiffany-blue door, its paint cracked and curling. The lock was a massive iron box with a large keyhole—fortified, ancient. I pulled out an equally antiquated-looking key and opened the door.
A long corridor with a rough stone floor stretched away from me. It was freezing, my breath fogged into the air. Halfway down I found a dark bedroom with two single beds and an enormous wooden chest of drawers, and I dropped my bags before going back out into the corridor to find the heating, switching it on, shedding my wet coat, and grabbing a blanket and wrapping it tight around me.
The apartment, which would be my new home for who-knew-how-long, was stuffy as well as cold. The corridor opened into a chain of rooms linking one to the next, what interior-design magazines call a shotgun apartment: a sitting room with large, shuttered casement windows, a sofa bed and a rickety table with haphazard piles of books. A long and spacious kitchen led off the top of the sitting room. The sink, cupboards, and oven ranged along the right, while, on the left, a table sat under another set of double windows. At the far end of the kitchen, another sitting room was set at a right angle, with a long corner sofa, behind which a shelving unit was wobbly with stacks of books. In the far corner, the only door in the whole apartment apart from the front door closed off a small bathroom.
I regarded myself in the mirror above the sink: my hair was frizzy from the journey, there were shadows under my eyes, and I could see the glowing red mark of a new spot erupting on my chin. Or chins, I should say. My Big Job had made me hate my reflection. The years had been marked by inexplicable, distressing weight gain: rolls appearing not just around my middle but on my back, under my face, hanging from my upper arms; I tried every healthy diet going and eliminated every kind of bad food as identified by the latest fad, to no avail. Acne, which had given me a wide berth when I was a teenager, came to get me with gusto; my skin had broken out. I tried not to care, but the industry I worked in made that impossible—a glossy magazine company in which the daily elevator ride required nerves of steel, a pre-season designer wardrobe, and the insouciance of Kate Moss. I had draped myself in black shapeless clothes instead and avoided the elevator.
I sighed and turned away, going back to the windows in the kitchen. In spite of the cold and the rain, I threw them open and leaned forward, peering into the darkness.
Outside, a dark, silent courtyard was overlooked by windows, balconies, and terra-cotta roofs. On the far side watching over it all was the tower of the local church, a slim stone structure from the seventeenth century. Four green bells peeked through small arches, a jigsaw of brickwork around the top the only decoration. All around, the windows of the other apartments were dark. Rain fell into the silence.
Christobel’s tower, I thought, remembering the first time I had heard about it.
I had met Christobel when I accepted a last-minute invitation to vacation at a friend’s home in France. Christobel was another guest. She had white hair with a stripe of black running down the middle, and a diamond that glittered in the corner of her nose. An unlikely look for a fairy godmother, but then, Disney never dreamed up one as sassy and smart as Christobel.
I learned that she was a novelist, wife to a Cambridge academic and mother to five children. She told me how she had fallen in love with Italy when she had spent a year in Florence teaching English. She had traveled back regularly, and somewhere along the line had bought an apartment, talking dreamily of a courtyard and a church tower. She managed a visit most months—two days in which to be alone, no children tugging at her skirt, to wander the streets visiting her favorite haunts for cappuccinos, for designer frocks, and handmade shoes. She wrote it all into thrillers set in the city, her characters retracing the steps she took around town, her plots imagining the dark underbelly of the place she loved for its beauty but was compelled by for its mystery. She had published three novels and was working on her fourth. I couldn’t imagine how she fitted it all in. “I have a full-time job and a cat, and I still can’t figure out how to wash my hair during the week,” I had said, and, laughing, we had bonded.
Lying under an olive tree one hot day, Christobel had suggested that I retreat to her apartment in Florence to write the book I dreamed of undertaking. I had scoffed at the time—it was a lovely dream but as far from my reality as could be. After all, I had a Big Job anchoring me in London, I was far too busy to take off like that.
And then, in just a few months, I had lost my Big Job and been evicted from my apartment. Even my cat had deserted me, climbing out the window one day, never to be seen again. As if she had sniffed out my despair, Christobel rang me one winter night, as I sat among my boxes. At my news, she clapped her hands in delight. “So now there’s nothing to stop you going to Florence in January to write,” she said, and started making plans before I had agreed. So I had taken the hint life was emphatically giving me, drawn a deep breath, packed my book proposal, and stepped off the edge of the cliff. A cliff with a Renaissance face, but a cliff nonetheless.
Excerpted from "Bella Figura"
Copyright © 2018 Kamin Mohammadi.
Excerpted by permission of Appetite by Random House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Editor's Preface xi
Translator's Preface xvii
Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706): Life and Work xxv
Funeral Oration for Petrus van Mastricht lxv
The Best Method of Preaching
I Preface 3
II The parts of preaching 5
III Twofold invention 5
IV The arrangement of a sermon and its laws 6
V An inquiry into the introduction 7
VI The content of the text 9
VII The analysis and the exposition of the text 9
VIII Five parts of the doctrinal argument 11
IX The informatory use 16
X The elenctic use 16
XI The consolatory use 18
XII The rebuking use 20
XIII The exploratory use 22
XIV The hortatory use 25
XV Some cautions 28
XVI How the more lengthy texts should be handled 29
XVII Delivery 29
XVIII The reasons why this is the best method 30
Part 1 Prolegomena and Faith
Book 1 Prolegomena of Theoretical-Practical Theology 1699 Dedication 39
1699 Preface 43
Methodical Arrangement of the Whole Work 47
Chapter 1 The Nature of Theology 63
I Introduction 63
The Exegetical Part
II Exegesis of 1 Timothy 6:2-3 64
First Theorem-The Method of Geology
The Dogmatic Part
III Theology must be taught in a certain order 67
IV The need for method in theology 68
V The sort of method that must be employed 69
The Elenctic Part
VI Must theology be taught according to a certain method? 70
The Practical Part
VII The first use is for censuring 71
VIII The second use is for exhortation 71
Second Theorem-The Definitum of Theology
The Dogmatic Part
IX Only a theoretical-practical Christian theology must be pursued 73
X It is proved from the Scriptures 73
XI It is confirmed by three reasons 73
XII That theology is given 74
XIII Its name 74
XIV Its synonyms 76
XV Homonyms 76
XVI Christian theology 77
XVII Natural theology: A. Its parts 77
XVIII B. Its fourfold use 78
XIX C. A threefold abuse 78
XX Theoretical-practical theology 78
XXI The distribution of false religions 79
The Elenctic Part
XXII 1. Is the theology of the pagans true? 80
XXIII 2. Is any kind of natural theology allowed? 82
XXIV 3. Is natural theology sufficient for salvation? 83
XXV 4. What should we think about scholastic theology? 85
The Practical Part
XXVI The first point of practice, examination 86
XXVII Second: shunning any false theology 88
XXVIII Third: the study of true theology 89
XXIX Motives for the study of Christian theology 90
XXX The means of obtaining theology 92
XXXI Eleven rules of academic study 94
XXXII Fourth: the study of practical theology 95
XXXIII Its marks 95
XXXIV Its motives 96
XXXV The means of obtaining a practical theology 97
Third Theorem-The Definition of Theology
The Dogmatic Part
XXXVI Theology is the doctrine of living for God through Christ 98
XXXVII It is confirmed by reasons 99
XXXVIII That it is termed doctrine, and why 100
XXXIX The object of theology is "living" 101
XL Living for God 101
XLI Different kinds of life 101
XLII Living for God through Christ 102
XLIII The first deduction, concerning the end of theology 103
XLIV Its object 104
XLV Its excellence 104
The Elenctic Part
XLVI Problems: 1. Is theology wisdom or prudence? 104
XLVII 2. What is its object? 105
XLVIII 3. Is it a theoretical or a practical habit? 106
The Practical Part
XLIX The first use, reproof 107
L The second use, examination 108
LI The third use, exhortation, that we live for God 109
LII Living for God demands specifically: 1. The threefold aim 109
LIII 2. The threefold norm 110
LIV 3. The order 110
LV Nine motives to live for God 111
LVI The manner of living for God, in three things 112
LVII Finally six means 112
Chapter 2 Holy Scripture 113
I Introduction 113
The Exegetical Part
II Exegesis of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 113
The Dogmatic Part
III Scripture is the perfect rule of living for God 117
IV It is confirmed by reasons: The first reason, from hypotheses 117
V The second reason, from the five requirements of a rule 118
VI Holy Scripture is explained: 1. The term Scripture 119
VII Synonyms of Scripture 120
VIII 2. The canonical parts of Scripture 120
IX The apocryphal books are rejected 121
X The authentic edition of Scripture 123
XI Editions in the vernacular 124
XII 3. The origin of Scripture 125
XIII The method of composing Holy Scripture 126
XIV 4. The properties of Scripture: (1) Authority 126
XV (2) Truth 127
XVI (3) Integrity 127
XVII (4) Sanctity 127
XVIII (5) Perspicuity 128
XIX (6) Perfection 128
XX (7) Necessity 129
XXI (8) Efficacy 130
The Elenctic Part
XXII 1. Is there any written Word of God? 131
XXIII The divine authority of Scripture is demonstrated by testimonies and seven reasons 133
XXIV 2. Has our Scripture been so corrupted that it was necessary to substitute the Quran for it? (1) Scripture has not been corrupted 137
XXV (2) Muhammad is not a true prophet 139
XXVI (3) The Quran is not a divine writing 140
XXVII With the Jews it is asked: 1. Has the oral law been given in addition to the written law? 141
XXVIII 2. Does the Talmud have divine authority? 144
XXIX 3. Does the kabbalah have divine authority? 146
XXX 4. Does the New Testament have divine authority? 147
XXXI Our eleven arguments for the divine authority of the New Testament 149
XXXII Other objections 152
XXXIII Do believers possess inspirations from the Holy Spirit? 153
XXXIV Is human reason the infallible norm of interpreting Scripture? 155
XXXV Is the Old Testament now abrogated or less necessary to read than the New Testament? 157
XXXVI Objections 158
XXXVII With the papists it is disputed: Does the authority of Scripture depend on the church? 159
XXXVIII Objections 160
XXXIX Should the books that we call the Apocrypha be numbered with the canonical books? 161
XL Are any non-original editions authentic? 162
XLI Are the Hebrew and Greek sources corrupted? 164
XLII Objections 165
XLIII Should Scripture be translated into the vernacular languages? 166
XLIV The reasons of the papists 166
XLV Should Scripture be read by the common people? 167
XLVI Is Scripture obscure? 167
XLVII Does Scripture allow more than one sense? 168
XLVIII Objections 169
XLIX Is there, besides and beyond Scripture, any infallible norm for interpreting it? 170
L The affirmative position 171
LI Is there some infallible judge of controversies on earth? 172
LII What the papists claim 173
LIII Should the judgment of controversies be relinquished to some sort of private judgment? 174
LV Is Scripture the perfect norm of faith and life? 175
LVI Are sacred traditions besides Scripture necessary? 177
LVII What the papists claim 177
LVIII Is Scripture necessary now for the church? 178
LIX Did Scripture arise only by fortuitous circumstances, and not by divine command? 180
LX Is Scripture not so much the perfect rule of believing and living as it is a useful kind of reminder? 181
The Practical Part
LXI The first use, impressing the authority of Scripture upon its hearers 182
LXII The way to assert and urge the divine authority of Scripture 183
LXIII The second use, the love of the divine Word 1. The parts of this love 185
LXIV 2. Seven motives for loving Scripture 185
LXV 3. The manner of loving Scripture 187
LXVI 4. The means to kindle love for Scripture 188
LXVII The third use, concerning contempt or hatred of the divine Word 188
LXVIII The fourth use, the study of the divine Word 188
LXIX The fifth use, the reading of the divine Word 190
LXX The sixth use, the hearing of the Word 191
LXXI The seventh use, the interpretation of Scripture 193
LXXII The means of interpreting Scripture: For those educated in letters 193
LXXIII The means of interpreting for everyone 194
LXXIV The eighth use, meditation: 1. What is meditation? 195
LXXV 2. That we should meditate 196
LXXVI 3. Why should we meditate? 197
LXXVII 4. How must we meditate? 197
LXXVIII The ninth use, conversations about the Scriptures 199
LXXIX Motives 199
LXXX Those obliged to this duty 199
LXXXI Impediments 200
LXXXII Aids 200
LXXXIII The manner 200
LXXXIV The tenth use, the observance or practice of the Word 201
Chapter 3 The Distribution of Theology 203
I Introduction 203
The Exegetical Part
II Exegesis of 2 Timothy 1:13 203
The Dogmatic Part
III The parts of theology are faith and love 204
IV It is confirmed by four reasons 206
V It is explained in three parts 206
The Elenctic Part
VI Theologians' contrary or different distributions are examined 207
VII It is asked whether the Socinian and Arminian distributions are genuine 207
The Practical Part
VIII The first use, rebuke 208
IX The second use, exhortation 209
X The delineation of this whole theology text 210
Board of the Dutch Reformed Theological Society 213
Scripture Index 215
Subject Index 229
Reading Group Guide
1. Do you see a relationship between the kind of work Marian does in consumer research with the particular way her life begins to disintegrate?
2. Peter is afraid of being captured by a woman, of losing his freedom; Marian begins to feel hunted, caught in his gaze; eventually she even confuses his camera with a gun. In what ways can all the characters seem at once to be hunter then predator, master then slave, subject then object?
3. Two parties take place in the book, the office party and the engagement party. Discuss what these parties do for the structure and development of the novel.
4. Sexual identity lies at the heart of much of the story. Discuss the role Marian's roommate Ainsley, her friend Claire, and finally the "office Virgins" play in helping define Marian's dilemma. Discuss the men: Why is Marian drawn to Duncan? Contrast him with Peter.
5. The novel is narrated in first person in parts one and three, third person in part two. What is the effect on the reader of the change in voice?
6. Margaret Atwood has described The Edible Woman, her first novel, as an "anti-comedy," with themes many now see as proto-feminist. Give examples of Atwood's clever use of food images throughout the book.
7. First Marian drops meat from her diet, then, eggs, vegetables, even pumpkin seeds. Can you point to the incidents that precede each elimination from her diet? How does her lack of appetite compare or contrast with Duncan's unnatural thinness, his stated desire to become "an amoeba?"
8. What is the meaning of the cake Marian serves Peter at the novel's end? What is the significance of her eating the cake?
9. Margaret Atwood is a writer who often plays with fair-tale images in her work. "The Robber Bridegroom" (which she much later turns on its head with The Robber Bride) was likely an inspiration for The Edible Woman: the old crone warns the bride-to-be " . . . the only marriage you'll celebrate will be with death. . . . When they have you in their power they'll chop you up in pieces . . . then they'll cook you and eat you, because they are cannibals." What images of cannibalism does Atwood use? Do you see traces of other fairy tales in this novel?
10. At the time The Edible Woman was written in 1965, food, eating, and weight issues had not yet attracted wide attention as feminist concerns. Three decades later, in The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf observes that the obsession with thinness began to become a serious national problem for women America around 1920, coinciding with women's right to vote; studies indicate that today nearly half of American young women have had at one time or other had an eating disorder. What are the symbolic meanings of food, and why does it become the focus for so much anxiety?
Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.