Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alain De Botton - The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

I've seen a few episodes of De Botton's show on TV but haven't read any of his popular books on philosophy. According to this report, Australians are huge fans of his practical 'brand' of philosophy.

So it was with a few high expectations that I approached his latest book,
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. What a great topic! And I was especially interested in what the book had to offer, considering the many angst driven discussions I’ve had with friends over the past year about work and what work means to our lives. (Is it oh so very Gen X to have a mid life crises in your 30s?)

Overall, I was really disappointed in De Botton’s book. It failed on many accounts. Firstly, the bulk of the book was too descriptive, lacking in substantial analysis and at times so shallow. For example the chapter on entrepreneurs, which could have been so fascinating, was too short and read like a magazine puff piece. Oh there was some attempted analysis with comments on the late capitalism, consumerism etc but they seemed like an afterthought.

Secondly, I felt De Botton was too dismissive of the occupations he was supposed to be analysing and reporting on. There was a real element of condescension and also sometimes pure snarkiness running through many of his descriptions of the "workers" he meets. Caleb Crain makes the point clear in his
NYT review calling De Botton on his mean-spiritedness and superficial judgements.

Thirdly, the language really annoyed me! It was so unnecessarily complicated and induced some eye ball rolling. In some parts of the book I thought, “is he really trying to construct the longest sentence with the biggest words?”.

Gee, I think I’ve really slammed this book! But it is coming from a good place, as I so wanted this book to be interesting, relevant and resonant.

On a side note, what is fascinating is the dust-up that has happened since Crain's review. De Botton posted quite a snarky comment on Crain blog ending with the rather lovely lines: "
I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude."

(Eye-ball rolling on "schadenfreude" - oh please if you're gonna diss someone it is so not necessary to put a foreign word in!!!)

LOL, you've got love the next posted comment - "Oh dear...".

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Order Up - Hungry Monkey and The Sweet Life in Paris

Order Up! Am soooo excited as my library has upgraded and you can now request the purchase of books online.

YAY - My two request were accepted and put on order:
Hungry Monkey just arrived and have read the first few chapters. It's really funny, Matthew Amster-Burton has a sharp and self-depreciating wit. Oh and there are recipes too!

I don't have children, so what to feed a baby isn't really on the top of my list of things to ponder. But I have reached a certain age where many of my good friends have started to have children so let's say I'm reading this one to gain a better understanding of what they have to go through. The chapter on called Adentures in Breastfeeding was particulary illuminating!

The second book, Living the Sweet Life in Paris is pastry chef David Lebovitz's food based memoir about living in Paris. The book covers two of my favourite things in life - Paris and pastries. Check out Lebovitz's blog for recipes and mouth- watering pics of his creations.

Oh, did I mention his other book is called the Great Book of Chocolate? Mmm maybe I need to place another order......