Saturday, June 16, 2007

How Proust Can Change Your Life

by Alain De Botton

I've never read Proust and although the author of this book is not the first person I've heard to describe him as the most brilliant novelist of all time, I don't think that I am yet ready to tackle all seven weighty volumes of his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time. Y'know... there's a new Erikson out and Penny Arcade to read and all...

In any case How Proust Can Change Your Life makes a decent introduction to this celebrated novelist. It succinctly summarises the themes and lessons of his work and dwells on the qualities that make it so respected, while also informing us in casual asides of the author's (that is to say, Proust's) eccentric and entertaining life and behaviour. He was surprisingly intellectually lively for a hypochondriac who preferred not to leave his bed.

It helps that the author (that is to say, De Botton) is a fairly decent writer himself. The tone is a little overly mannered for my taste but his wit and good natured enthusiasm for the subject make it great fun to read. To my surprise I found myself laughing out loud before I was even a chapter in, and then realising that it was the first time a book had made me do that in a long while.

It certainly did whet my appetite to try some Proust, but cautionary early reports from someone who has dived into In Search of Lost Time have kept me away from the bookshop. It is now on the list, but it's still a long way behind Erikson...

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