Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Over the weekend I read How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not A Novel by Alain de Botton. It's a funny little book, part biography and part self-help book with advice on such matters as "How To Suffer Successfully" or "How To Put Books Down" illustrated with examples from Proust's life and works. I especially enjoyed the chapter "How To Open Your Eyes" which is about finding beauty and meaning in your surroundings, whatever they may be. "The happiness that may emerge from taking a second look is central to Proust's therapeutic conception. It reveals the extent to which our dissatisfactions may be the result of failing to look properly at our lives rather than the result of anything inherently deficient about them." I also loved the chapter "How To Put Books Down" where de Botton tells us about a "range of symptoms that Proust identified in the overreverent, overreliant reader" including "Symptom No. 2: That we are unable to write after reading a good book." Apparently Virginia Woolf felt this way while reading In Search Of Lost Time and had to struggle to make peace with what she felt was her inferiority. Luckily I have already resigned myself to my absolute inability to write anything of consequence.

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