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The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy [Paperback]

Michael Foley
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Feb 2010
The good news is that the great thinkers from history have proposed the same strategies for happiness and fulfilment. The bad news is that these turn out to be the very things most discouraged by contemporary culture. This knotty dilemma is the subject of The Age of Absurdity - a wry and accessible investigation into how the desirable states of wellbeing and satisfaction are constantly undermined by modern life. Michael Foley examines the elusive condition of happiness common to philosophy, spiritual teachings and contemporary psychology, then shows how these are becoming increasingly difficult to apply in a world of high expectations. The common challenges of earning a living, maintaining a relationship and ageing are becoming battlegrounds of existential angst and self-loathing in a culture that demands conspicuous consumption, high-octane partnerships and perpetual youth. In conclusion, rather than denouncing and rejecting the age, Foley presents an entertaining strategy of not just accepting but embracing today's world - finding happiness in its absurdity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (General list, Trade Division); Reprint edition (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847375243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847375247
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Praise for Michael Foley: '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'

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

'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

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 is his first non-fiction book.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
663 of 671 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The no-answer answer 11 Feb 2010
At one point in this book Michael Foley laments his own tendency to buy books and CDs in pursuit of some transcendental experience - the books are going to give him arcane knowledge and explain the meaning of it all. Of course, they stay on the shelf, eventually becoming a source of guilt and stress. This is ironic, because The Age of Absurdity comes as close as anyone ever will to giving you arcane knowledge and explaining the meaning of it all.

I'm simplifying a complex and detailed argument here. But, in brief, Foley argues (or at least I take him to be arguing) that the modern world has placed two major barriers in the path of happiness - the `culture of entitlement' and the worship of potential. (NB: Foley breaks down the analysis into more categories, but I think there's good reason for thinking that these are the main issues). The culture of entitlement is so much part of the zeitgeist that we can hardly see it anymore - it drives the talentless to obsessively seek fame, spawns a million `self esteem' workshops, and ensures that every thug knows his rights without considering that he even has responsibilities. (And if you think it's just thugs, ask yourself when you last concluded a whinge by observing that `someone' - some unnameable `they' - should do something about it). But it also means that when the world fails to notice our talents or respect our rights - which, let's face it, is most of the time - we feel hard done by. We are all poisoning our lives with a terminal feeling of injustice; all have a chip on our shoulder big enough to overbalance us.
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100 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful 24 Feb 2010
Foley writes lucidly and with much thought on some of the deeper issues facing western (and potentially other) societies, touching on areas such as the impact of advertising, the role of drugs companies in creating new "disorders", and lack of personal responsibility. There are no easy answers, but he does come up with suggestions that can help embrace the absurdity of modern life and use it to your advantage.

Not a self help book, but a mix of social commentary, philosophy, life coaching and other things. It has a serious purpose (or does it?), but uses brevity and wit to get it's point across.

This is the first book by Foley that I've read but it definitely won't be the last!
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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
This is a very rare book that combines great insight into the modern human condition with incisive and illuminating wit. It draws upon on a wealth of writings from the great historical thinkers to modern day novelists and is delivered in a superbly engaging way. If you aren't that interested in philosophy you should read this becase it's just a very good read. If you are interested in philosophy don't be put off by this book's 'accessibility' because it takes a very well argued and challenging position on modern life. I think I may now have told everyone I know to read this book so for the first time in a long time I am encouraging strangers to do the same by wrting on Amazon!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are some excellent reviews on here, so I won't rewrite some already well made points. I just want to express my personal gratitude to 'Mike' for providing a sane voice and conceptual framework for understanding the absurdity of much modern life. I found myself nodding sagely on many pages and thanking God/common sense that there are others out there, who can think 'out of the box' and not be completely sucked in by the outrageous conformity of the modern world.

In order to justify this as a review, I offer a few words on the book: It's very well written, with reference to a wide variety of sources ranging from Buddha and Jesus to Marx and Freud. It's split up into clear chapters with each one being dealt with comprehensively. The writing is lively and amusing. And to be frank, if you've arrived at this page because 'The Age of Absurdity' rings a bell, then you're going to like and appreciate this book. A little effort may be required, but the journey will be worth the effort!
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 13 Mar 2010
A thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking and amusing book.

Foley weaves together philosophy, psychology, science, religion, popular culture and anecdotes from everyday life to explain the absurdity of the modern world.

The only problem with this book is it's going to make you want to go and read all the other books it references. And hopefully all those books won't end up on your shelf unread!

Ultimatley, Foley makes you realise you are not alone in pondering the absurdity of modern life, and points out that the answers are there, they always have been; though don't confuse simple with easy.

Oh, and I picked this book off the shelf initially because of the picture on the front. I guess marketing does have its uses - damn!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable reading, excellent book 19 Mar 2010
By Jordan Gerrard VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The other excellent reviews here don't require repetition.

This is a very fine book, like a (mainly) one sided conversation with a good friend. Foley says that is what a book should be, and he's right, and his book is an example. Some of what he writes is uncomfortable, but he recognises his own weakness in the face of the zeitgeist too. I've not stopped talking about this since I finished it - and (more importantly) not stopped thinking about it. There are no easy answers, but - to use a modern idea - it provides a context.

Really, really recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly honest
Very much enjoyed this book, as would anybody who is tired of corporate b******t and other such nonsense. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Andrew Ditton
1.0 out of 5 stars Enough straw men for a haystack
He makes lots of statements about how everyone behaves, with little or no evidence, and then effectively says they are silly. It doesn't penetrate below the surface into why. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jenny Barnes
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard work
Maybe I am stupid, with only GCSE passes in english.
I found this very hard to read, constantly having to use a dictionary on nearly every page. Read more
Published 5 months ago by dante
5.0 out of 5 stars everyone should read this
I think it's amazing how foley combines neuroscience, philosophy and witty prose to dissect life. I felt I learned a lot and had my senses opened, my mind invigorated and maybe... Read more
Published 5 months ago by disco fox
4.0 out of 5 stars Realistic
A realistic, thought inducing book that will raise questions on what is considered valuable in society and how obsolete many of these things, in fact, are. An eye opener.
Published 6 months ago by Renata Lopes Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, clear, cruel, funny
Michael Foley with `The Age of Absurdity' will make you sit down and look at the world around you more closely. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Denis Vukosav
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent concept and insights, overshadowed by writer's ranting
I enjoyed the first part of the book, the ideas introduced are very intelligent and the way the modern condition is presented is almost entertaining in a cynical way. Read more
Published 6 months ago by atomheart
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and weep (just kidding!)
I loved this book! Slaps you back into reality and nothwithstanding the subtitle, made me feel happy. Doesn't add much to the collective 'happy' quotient but that's ok.
Published 6 months ago by Paul ODonnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Inspiring, and Thought Provoking
Foley holds a mirror up to his readers and those around them, with uncanny but hilarious descriptions of our many failures, and honest, useful suggestions at how these can be... Read more
Published 11 months ago by T. McKie
4.0 out of 5 stars I am not H.A.P.P.Y.
The idea that the goal of personal and political life should be happiness was articulated for the Victorian age by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Metropolitan Critic
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