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How Proust Can Change Your Life Paperback – Apr 28 1998
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This is a genius-level piece of writing that manages to blend literary biography with self-help and tongue-in-cheek with the profound. The quirky, early 1900s French author Marcel Proust acts as the vessel for surprisingly impressive nuggets of wisdom on down-to-earth topics such as why you should never sleep with someone on the first date, how to protect yourself against lower back pain, and how to cope with obnoxious neighbors. Here's proof that our ancestors had just as much insight as the gurus du jour and perhaps a lot more wit. De Botton simultaneously pokes fun at the self-help movement and makes a significant contribution to its archives. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Generally writers fall into one of two camps: those who feel that one can't write without having a firm grasp on Proust, and those who, like Virginia Woolf, are crippled by his influence. De Botton, the author of On Love, The Romantic Movement and Kiss and Tell, obviously falls into the former category. But rather than an endless exegesis on memory, de Botton has chosen to weave Proust's life, work, friends and era into a gently irreverent, tongue-in-cheek self-help book. For example, in the chapter titled "How to Suffer Successfully," de Botton lists poor Proust's many difficulties (asthma, "awkward desires," sensitive skin, a Jewish mother, fear of mice), which is essentially a funny way of telling the reader quite a lot about the man's life. Next he moves on to Proust's little thesis that because we only really think when distressed, we shouldn't worry about striving for happiness so much as "pursuing ways to be properly and productively unhappy." De Botton then cheerily judges various characters of A la recherche against their author's maxims. At the beginning, when de Botton drags his own girlfriend into a tortuous and not terribly successful digression, readers may be skeptical, but they will be won over by his whimsical relation of Proust's lessons?essentially an exhortation to slow down, pay attention and learn from life. Is it profound? No. Does this add something new to Proust scholarship? Probably not. But it's a real pleasure to read someone who treats this sacrosanct subject as something that is still vital and vigorous. 25,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Nonetheless, this remains an amazingly good introduction to Proust, and is a marvelous first-book for anyone contemplating reading Proust's masterpiece. Proust is, of course, the author of what is very widely considered to be the great work of literature of the past century and what is increasingly considered one of the great masterpieces in the history of literature: IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. de Botton's volume isn't precisely an introduction to Proust so much as a series of reflections on themes that can be illustrated by aspects of Proust's life or by passages in his great novel. Many of these are marvelous at assisting even a veteran reader of Proust to gain new insights into his book.
Is the book worthwhile for someone who does not plan on reading Proust but just wants to read an enjoyable book? Certainly. de Botton is unfailingly witty, almost always interesting, and frequently insightful. None of this relies either upon having read Proust or intending to. The book can certainly stand on its own. Reading this book is fun and easy; reading Proust can be fun at times, but it is also challenging and demanding frequently. But that may be why de Botton's book is unable to show how Proust truly can change your life.Read more ›
This book is simply one of the loveliest meditations on reading and life, and how they intertwine, that I've ever read. It's not a book for people who don't like to read, but for anyone who DOES like to read, I think it would make a lovely gift. I gave it to myself, and I thanked myself for it very much.
Instead, de Botton accomplishes several things. He parodies self-help books, he undertakes a humorous and highly personal exploration of Proust, and he makes a witty argument about how literature can aid us in our daily lives. The heart of de Botton's message is actually paradoxical. From one perspective he is saying, "don't take literature too seriously" and from another he is saying, "literature is a critical tool in everyone's life".
I believe that all of us essentially reinvent what we read and use it to interpret our lives and the world around us. De Botton simply provides a humorous and intelligent blue print of this natural process.
But the greatest praise I can give this book is that, because of it, I am going to buy In a Budding Grove this weekend. Great stuff, highly recommended, especially for those unsure if they wish to read more than one volume of Proust. (It may be a little less appreciated by those who have never read any Proust, but it is still entertaining and may convince you to pick up the book itself.)
The key, I believe, to fully appreciating what this particular text has to offer, is to understand Proust's various responses to the world - what I like to call his inner-worldliness. It is well known, of course, that Proust was not a 'worldly' man in the common sense of the term, but worldly in that vast terrain known as the imagination. In fact, this gentle and fragile writer, most of his short life, rarely stepped out of his bedroom, let alone transverse the expanses of Europe. Proust's gift was the uncanny ability to observe something as apparently mundane as a pocket watch or a scrap of bed linen, and through a mental process of rich association, create new and meaningful experiences. What Proust taught us through his voluminous works, which de Botton points out, is what we all too often take for granted, ironically, has the potential to give us what we need.
~How Proust can Change your Life~ is one of those texts that you can pick up after lunch and finish before dinner, yet the contents and practical wisdom should remain with you for a long time.
Most recent customer reviews
More of a biography than a motivational book so far, but I'm finding it interesting enough.Published 20 days ago by melbishop
Bette "How deBotton can change Proust and you, dear Reader". This book opened my eyes to 1) how we lose time (while meaning to gain it) and 2) how we might attempt once... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Henriette T. Donner
Sorry but although I persevered and read this through to the bitter end, it just didn't do anything for me.Published on July 13 2004 by Keith Appleyard
I realize I am in the minority but I thought this book was a very weak extraction of some of Proust's concepts that almost seemed insipid after de Botton removed them from their... Read morePublished on May 23 2003 by C. Collins
This book was a very interesting treatise on human characters, not to mention Proust himself. Makes a good companion for the novel that it references, In Search of Lost Time if I'm... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2003 by Bunny Bear
The purpose for reading philosophy is twofold: to understand one's nature and to change it for the better. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2003 by A. M. Rosencrants