Alain de Botton is the author of three previous works of fiction and three of nonfiction, including The Art of Travel, The Consolations of Philosophy, and How Proust Can Change Your Life (all available in paperback from Vintage Books). He lives in London.
Internationally best-selling author de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life; The Art of Travel) describes the bedevilment known as "status anxiety" as the desire for position and recognition gone excessive, leading to the worry that one will not achieve appropriate levels of success as defined by society, which will result in a poor treatment or lack of respect. A desire for status can be motivational, de Botton contends. But when we are faced with "causes" for anxiety about our progress, such as lovelessness, snobbery, and other painful digs in life, we may become neurotic in our pursuit of status, leading to fear and perfectionism that hinder, rather than promote, our progress, robbing us of our joy. De Botton examines "solutions" society has proposed to address the problem of this anxiety, including philosophy, art, and religion, among others. He advocates a perspective of "momento mori": remembrance of our own deaths can establish an appropriate order for our priorities and free us from the tyranny of worry about what others think of our lives. A well-researched yet entertaining book, it offers helpful insights. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Lori Carabello, Ephrata P.L., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This sophisticated gazebo of a book is the latest dispatch from the Swiss-born, London-based author of the influential handbook How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel (1997). Promising to teach us how to duck the "brutal epithet of `loser' or `nobody,' " de Botton notes that status has often been conflated with honor and that the number of men slain while dueling has amounted, over the centuries, to the hundreds of thousands. That conflation is a trap from which de Botton suggests a number of escape routes. We could try philosophy, the "intelligent misanthropy" of Schopenhauer, for who cares what others think if they're all a pack of ninnies anyhow? Art, too, has its consolations, as Marcel found out in Remembrance of Things Past. A novelist such as Jane Austen, with her little painted squares of ivory, can reimagine the world we live in so that we see fully how virtue is actually "distributed without regard to material wealth." De Botton also discusses bohemia, the reaction to status and the attack on bourgeois values, wisely linking this movement to dadaism, whose founder, Tristan Tzara, called for the "idiotic." The phenomenon known as "keeping up with the Joneses" is nothing new, and not much has changed in the 45 years since the late Vance Packard, in The Status Seekers, wrote the definitive analysis of consumer culture and its discontents. But even at the peak of his influence, Packard was never half as suave as de Botton. (A three-part TV documentary, to be shown in the U.K. and in Australia, and hosted by de Botton, has been commissioned to promote the book.) Lively and provocative, de Botton proves once again that originality isn't necessary when one has that continental flair we call "style." Agent, Nicole Aragi. (June 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"His richest, funniest, most heartfelt work yet, packed with erudition and brimming with an elegant originality of mind. . . . An informative joy to read." -The Seattle Times "A smart and amusing inquiry. . . . Thick with social history and as funny as [it is] acute." - The Boston Globe"A typically de Bottonesque romp. . . . Full of great. . . literary and philosophical references." -The Christian Science Monitor"His insights float on a kind light irony. . . like pixilated Barthes. . . . The pleasures of his prose come from following the play of his mind, the vast erudition, the succinct paraphrases, and vivid, often lyrical physical descriptions." - Boston Phoenix