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Embracing the Ordinary: Lessons from the Champions of Everyday Life Mass Market Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849839123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849839129
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Foley is originally from Derry in Northern Ireland but has lived most of his adult life in London, working for twenty three years as a Lecturer in Information Technology at the University of Westminster before retiring in 2007 to concentrate fulltime on writing.
He has published critically-acclaimed poetry, novels and non-fiction, including a New and Selected Poems (Blackstaff Press 2011). His first non-fiction book, The Age of Absurdity (Simon & Schuster 2010), was a bestseller and has been translated into seven languages.

Product Description

Review

'A convincing argument for the beauty of the seemingly banal… This is a book of big ideas about small things... Foley's writing is funny and accessible, his ability to rain ordinariness on such lofty topics as love, sex and religion is insightful and amusing' Scotsman

'Foley always writes beguilingly… when he hits his stride, his hymns of praise to everyday things really do restore our sense of wonder and delight' --Readers Digest
'In recession-chastened, soddenly staycationing Britain, Foley may well have devised a new bestseller format: a how-to book offering a way of escape without leaving prison. It's like a highbrow version of the ''Keep Calm and Carry on'' franchise...[a] lovely book' Stuart Jeffries, Guardian



Praise for THE AGE OF ABSURDITY:

'Reading Michael Foley's THE AGE OF ABSURDITY. I must be the last person in the world to read this but I'm glad I finally have, as it is fascinating. It looks at the quest for happiness and how we are getting it all wrong' Jeremy Vine, Sunday Telegraph

'Genuinely funny, sharp, truthful and intelligent . . . striking a blow for the value of ordinariness' Times Literary Supplement

'Irresistible narrative with the sort of irreverent exuberance that carries all before it' Guardian

'Pungent, witty, perceptive . . . like Larkin, only sharper, funnier and more cynical' Irish Times

'Not the usual cleverclogs claptrap. Foley delivers well-judged wisdom'
Oliver James

'Achingly funny and wise . . . vastly entertaining' Daily Mail

'Michael Foley's entertaining, intelligent book may just help you get over yourself . . . Absurdly readable' Observer

'Insightful and entertaining . . . wickedly sceptical' --Irish Examiner

Praise for THE AGE OF ABSURDITY:

'Reading Michael Foley's THE AGE OF ABSURDITY. I must be the last person in the world to read this but I'm glad I finally have, as it is fascinating. It looks at the quest for happiness and how we are getting it all wrong' Jeremy Vine, Sunday Telegraph

'Genuinely funny, sharp, truthful and intelligent . . . striking a blow for the value of ordinariness' Times Literary Supplement

'Irresistible narrative with the sort of irreverent exuberance that carries all before it' Guardian

'Pungent, witty, perceptive . . . like Larkin, only sharper, funnier and more cynical' Irish Times

'Not the usual cleverclogs claptrap. Foley delivers well-judged wisdom'
Oliver James

'Achingly funny and wise . . . vastly entertaining' Daily Mail

'Michael Foley's entertaining, intelligent book may just help you get over yourself . . . Absurdly readable' Observer

'Insightful and entertaining . . . wickedly sceptical' --Irish Examiner

'A wise, funny, erudite book about enjoying everyday life. The fiction of Joyce and Proust, along with other writers and artists who delight in the daily routine, anchors Foley's celebration of the here and now' --Independent

'Thirty years ago, Michael Foley had an epiphany. As he emerged from jury service, the street outside the court became ''illuminated, transfigured, a portal to infinite being''. Everything became sublime, especially the menu at the caff advertising ''egg's, sausage's and tomato's''. ''Those misplaced apostrophes tore at my heart like orphan children, blessed like the first timid snowdrops of February, sparkled like a dusting of precious stones. I wanted to rush in and embrace the illiterate proprietor. To die of a heart attack from one of his fry-ups would surely be the ideal way to go to Heaven.'' Thankfully he didn't, otherwise we wouldn't have this lovely book' --Guardian

Here s a nice idea: why not learn to love the ordinary things in life? Michael Foley tells us about some people who have done just that... It s very heartening, --i (Independent)

'Wise, erudite, funny ... I will relish this book not just for its deftly opportunistic mining of novels and tracts and movies to shore up its premises, but for lyrical flights into the poetry of dailyness ... If they ever hand out golds for infectious delight in quotidian events, Foley should mount the podium.' --Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor, Independent

A wise, funny, erudite book about enjoying everyday life. The fiction of Joyce and Proust, along with other writers and artists who delight in the daily routine, anchors Foley s celebration of the here and now --i (Independent)

About the Author

Michael Foley was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, but since 1972 he has lived in London, working as a Lecturer in Information Technology. He has published four novels, four collections of poetry and a collection of translations from French poetry, which have earned impressive reviews from The Guardian, New Statesman and New York Times. The Age of Absurdity was his first non-fiction book and became a bestseller.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Rutnam on 19 July 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoy this author's pithy wit and wide range of reference. This book is a tribute to real life and real people: modern mankind presented in the raw as a much more entertaining and absurd creature than the sanitised, idealised portrayals we have learnt to believe in. The author's observation on modern life make me laugh. He also picks out interesting highlights from other authors concerned with elevating the ordinary in life, such as Munro, Proust, Kafka, Joyce etc.. . A rich, inspiring and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend it and The Age of Absurdity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I believe - given several negative reviews - that the book deserves a disclaimer first. Unlike in The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life makes it Hard to be Happy, where one can claim from start to finish that the author used an incredibly rich and varied selection of sources raging from the scientific to the literary to bring his point across, the first ~60% of this book seem to fit similar subjects primarily around the life and writing of two men - James Joyce and Marcel Proust. If the two generally strike your fancy, the book is likely to appeal, of course. At the same time the author runs the risk of alienating lots of readers, who may conclude that reading Ulysses or In Search of Lost Time [volumes 1 to 7] may bring just as much and potentially be more rewarding.

While not a great admirer of Joyce prior to reading this book (and hence partially understanding the critical reviews), I found that there are two elements that make the book easier to get through - the first being that it works better when enjoyed in small chunks at a time, and the second one that both Proust and Joyce slowly relinquish their iron grip on the book's center stage (by that time - around 60% into the book, it may very well be too late for most readers).

The book still brings many well thought out observations on the banal aspects of life and on how these, rather than being abhorred, can just as well be enjoyed, leading to a less fashionable but more satisfying path.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By LlionWigley on 2 Sept. 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After really enjoying reading this book and learning a great deal from it, I'd like to counterbalance some of the fairly harsh and inaccurate reviews on here. Although Foley does make extensive use of Joyce and Proust's work, the book is not simply an extended discussion of the two or a compare and contrast exercise. Foley uses their work to illuminate his main theme that joy and profundity can be found in even the most mundane and 'ordinary' seeming moments and locations within everyday life. However, he also draws on a very eclectic range of sources from philosophy, psychology, anthropology, art, literature and science to develop and enrich his argument further. This includes works by authors such as Alice Munro, Henri Bergson, John McGahern, William James and most interestingly, for me anyway, David Foster Wallace, whose commencement address to students on 'living a compassionate life' I will be eternally grateful to Foley for pointing me in the direction of.

Each chapter considers a different aspect of everyday life, from speech, sex, snobbery and status to the strange pleasures of the seemingly joyless workplace. Foley's tremendous wit and humour is on display throughout, which enables him to deal with some very profound and difficult concepts with a deceptively light touch. As in his previous book, his awareness of the absurdity of many aspects of everyday life makes his vision generous and compassionate, rather than bleak or pessimistic. I found the chapters on spirituality and the office/work particularly and simultaneously funny, accurate and wise. Thoroughly, thoroughly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on 23 Mar. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was wonderfully written, very insightful, well researched, and incredibly funny in places. OK, maybe not as funny as Foley's Age of Absurdity, but still it had me laughing out loud in places. I learned a lot from this book, as I didn't know much about either Proust or Joyce. I've since purchased a couple of Joyce's books to read and they really are brilliant observations of the everyday. There is much to be had from embracing the ordinary, although I don't think it is a complete solution to dealing with the domesticity and boringness of much of everyday life. There is much to be had from this outlook though. I was reading the book at work (naturally), and had reached the section on the banality of much conversation, especially in the work environment, so was suitably primed for what happened next - two co-workers came in and started a conversation which revolved around how their wives kept them awake the previous night - in the one case through snoring and in the other through a toothache - it was just one of the funniest things I've ever listened to. Also, as a result of this book, I will never be able to sit in another work meeting again with a straight face. This is not a quick or particularly easy read, this is not a Dan Brown novel (plots are evil!), but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and look forward to whatever Michael does next with great anticipation.
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