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Loses its way
on November 25, 2009
The author begins the book with broad observations about the breadth and depth of the logistics of working life, painting a picture of a massive, woven fabric of work that enveloped the planet and with which I was in constant contact whether I realized it or not. I was excited and hopeful that he'd offer more detailed insights on individual patches in that quilt; insights that might help me look at my own working life in a different way. But as the book progressed, I got the impression that de Botton became disillusioned with the topic of his book or the specimens he chose to observe, or both. The tone gradually but steadily darkened from beginning to end, such that I imagine many readers would be left with a sense of sorrow that far outweighed any pleasure they might identify with.
I had never read de Botton prior to this book, and was immediately struck by his writing style. He seems *very* enamored with his own vocabulary, and favors writing in a way that feels lyrical or poetic, even when a thought could--and probably should--be expressed more concisely. As I imagine he might write, "I mused over his elegiac phrasings, helpless to wonder whether innate truths that accompanied his observations were obscured beneath the syntax of their transcription."
Despite this, some passages seemed genuinely insightful and worth highlighting with my Kindle, like, "The brightest minds spend their working lives simplifying or accelerating functions of unreasonable banality," or, "There seemed to be few man-made innovations whose creation had not exacted a disproportionate degree of sacrifice and ingenuity," or, "At two in the morning, I switched on the light and took a formal decision to read until daybreak, so as spitefully to acquaint the wakeful side of me with the full consequences of its insurrection," which made me laugh. But overall, the set of insights I chose to take away from this book were small, and I was left wanting a deeper philosophical study instead of the thematic wanderlust I got.