It is rare that I will just say that I didn't like a book, but I had a hard time finishing this one. I probably would have put it down pretty early on, if it weren't for my project. I found this book sophmoric in its overused scatological descriptions, as well as providing too much information on other bodily functions. Tales of strip club visits and porn-movie fests complete this juvenile picture.
I mention in an earlier post that I don't consider competitive eating a sport. I had not yet gotten to the chapter called "The Nader Dispute: For and Against Competitive Eating as a Sport" in which Nerz spends 9 pages defending the sport, and attacking Ralph Nader, and others for contending that it is not. I suppose if it is that important for those in the world of competitive eating to consider it a sport, I won't argue as it makes no difference to me. It's not as if professional sports such as baseball, football, hockey, or any of the other more "traditional" sports hold any of my interest either. This disinterest in sports in general is probably part of the reason the book didn't capture much of my attention. So many of the chapters were the stories of individual eating competitions, and I just wasn't into the drama. I was completely unconcerned with who won, or who qualified, or didn't, or why.
The chapter continues with questions about whether competitive eating is gluttony, a waste of food, and if it is a sign of American overconsumption. He does concede some of these points, but also defends them, as if since America is competitive in so many things this must be okay too. Is competition and consumption good just because it is part of our culture?
He does not fully explore the question of competitive eating as a waste of food except to call those who consider it such "bleeding heart[s]", and to point out that someone who thinks that wouldn't consider "NASCAR a waste of fuel." Ummm...yes, NASCAR is a waste of fuel. To be fair I will point out that the IFCOE does donate to Second Harvest and the Hurricane Katrina relief.
On several occasions Nerz claims that competitive eating is an equal opportunity sport because a few women compete on the circuit. He profiles two women "guritators", as they are called, and both are described as quite thin and feminine-looking. On the other hand, he profiles quite a few men and body types of all shapes and sizes are celebrated in them. I somehow doubt a large woman would last very long on the ciruit, even if she were a champion eater. A look at the IFOCE website "meet the eaters" has two women out of twenty, hardly "equal" opportunity.
There was no mention of libraries in this book, there was, however, a mention of Unitarians. Nerz puts on "one of those collars that priests wear" in order to impersonate a Unitarian minister as part of a stunt. He he stumbles his way around issues in the Old Testament and last rites to the crowd gathered to see "Crazy Legs Conti" eat his way out of a popcorn sarcophagus. To be sure, we Unitarians have many beliefs and our ministers have any number of ways of expressing their vocation, so I am sure there are some who use the "dickeys", and probably those who will administer last rites when asked. I hope he wasn't really trying to fool anyone though, perhaps not. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. On another spirtual matter though, guritator "Ikeda feel[s] that his stomach has its own soul". Nerz"believe[s] this [possiblity] has some basis in truth, [and] would shatter all notions of eating competitions as mere exercises in gluttony." I am not ready to make such a leap of faith.
Finally, Nerz got under my skin by using two of my "pet peeves of writing". First he uses "fast-forward" to indicate time passage. This is just overused. Can we all please agree not to use this one anymore? And secondly he says "Drew Cerza and Lon both didn't (emphasis mine) seem to notice. I have seen this awkward construction more and more of late. It sounds so much smoother to say "neither Drew nor Lon seemed to notice". Let us remember that negatives can be our friends.
I am sure Nerz will have his fans, as competitive eating truly does have a large following. For those who are tickled by tales of poopy pants, and vomit that looks like "milk shakes" this book will no doubt amuse. It takes all kinds.