John Oakes at Harvard Book Store
The History, Science, Philosophy,
and Promise of Doing Without
in conversation with LUKE O'NEIL
February 23, 2024
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes JOHN OAKES—publisher of The Evergreen Review—for a discussion of his new book The Fast: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Promise of Doing Without. He will be joined in conversation by LUKE O'NEIL—author of Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia.
About The Fast
We fast all the time, even when we’re not conscious of doing so. A fast manifests the idea of holding back, resisting the animal impulse to charge ahead. Its flip side is similarly everywhere: call it splurging, self-indulgence, or a variant of “self-care.” Based on extensive historical, scientific, and cultural research and reporting, The Fast illuminates the numerous facets of this act of self-deprivation. John Oakes interviews doctors, spiritual leaders, activists, and others who guide him through this practice—and embarks on fasts of his own—to deliver a book that supplies readers curious about fasting with profound new understanding, appreciation, and inspiration.
Fasting has become increasingly popular for a variety of reasons—from health advocates who see fasting as a method to lose weight or to detox, to the faithful who fast in prayer, to seekers pursuing mindfulness, to activists using hunger strikes as an effective means of peaceful protest. Fasting is central to holy seasons and days such as Lent in Christianity, Ramadan in Islam, and Yom Kippur in Judaism. Advocates for justice who have waged hunger strikes include Gandhi in India, Bobby Sands in Ireland, and the Taxi Workers Alliance in New York City. Whether for philosophical, political, or health-related reasons, fasting marks a departure from daily routine.
Fasting involves doing less but doing less in a radical way, reminding us that a slower, more intentional contemplative experience can be more fulfilling. Ultimately, this book shows us that fasting is about much more than food: it is about reconsidering our place in the world.
Praise for The Fast
“I couldn’t stop reading this book about not eating. And I often had food in my mouth as I read. Like any important book in my life, this one leaves me changed. And I don’t know what will happen next.” —Eileen Myles, author of For Now (Why I Write) and Evolution
“John Oakes takes us on an elegant and irresistible journey, all the while engaging us with personal experiences, scientific enlightenment, and the historical context of fasting. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, The Fast will stay with you long after you’ve read every word.” —Gilbert King, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Devil in the Grove
“This simple yet far-reaching account of a one-week fast shows how any of us can dissolve the constructed boundary between self and universe, experience the awe of undifferentiated existence, and make ourselves available to the greater dance of life. By all means take this inspiring journey with an instantly trustworthy guide.” —Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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