Dessert First

How the Modern Version of Carpe Diem Has Seized the Day

by Jonathan Carson

“Life Is Short: Eat Dessert First,” reads a T-shirt popular among college students. “Carpe Diem,” reads another, “Seize the Day,” as the words of Horace are usually translated. The first shirt gives the common understanding of the second. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we are all dead. The authority of the Roman poet is invoked to justify, indeed glorify, adolescent self-indulgence.

Adolescents, especially adolescent boys, need no encouragement, of course, to choose instant gratification. Yet this is what they are getting from their English teachers. Elements of . . .

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