120 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2004
I like this book very much and have read it several times. It's not really about Proust, it is about looking at the world like Proust. It is a simple reminder of the sort things we miss in life when we are immersed in the hurry-scurry of the rat-race. So if I'm a bit fed-up, I take up this book and learn to take a breath, while seeing the world afresh. I find the section on the portayal of everyday things in art, particularly inspiring and up-lifting. Its about appreciating the things that were always there but we fail to see. I recommend it highly.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2007
Reading anything by de Botton I feel a serenity descend upon me. His writing seems to have a soothing effect and this book was no different.
In "How Proust can change your life" he takes the wisdom to be found in the novels of Proust and shows how they can help us to live better lives. Or perhaps to make us aware that we live better lives than we think.
There are sections on how to love life, read for yourself, take your time, suffer succesfully, express your emotions, be a good friend, open your eyes, be happy in love and put books down.
I loved this book and it has made me feel I can read Proust and appreciate it properly. Swann's Way is next for me and I am looking forward to it with anticipation. But whether you intend to read Proust or not this book is well worth reading.
182 of 192 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 1998
Let me start by saying that I sleep well at night and don't pretend to have the vaguest clue about some of the great writers of literature. Now that I've established my honesty and credibility, maybe I can say a few words about this book. Personally, I think the author wouldn't be such a bad fellow to know. I like the way he segmented the book and described relevant portions of Proust. I am a soldier and spend a lot of time in the field; currently in a part of the world which is undergoing an uneasy truce. I read whatever I can get my hands on and am tired of the muscle and skin magazines, car magazines, etc., which is the normal fare. When a book like this comes along, which is fairly easy to read and digest and more importantly, makes me want to attempt the real thing, then I don't think it's such a bad book and certainly not deserving of one or two stars. As for re-evaluating life's experiences, I hope that I can sit back one day and use a "Proustian" view to re-examine my current experiences; something which I have not been able to do as I've only been able to react. That is probably the biggest lesson and the irony of the whole Proust phenomenon, that is, from his bed, he observes with the utmost clarity, the most minute activities of a day, while the rest of us are busy living and missing out on these subtleties and insights into ourselves.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Are you tired of self-help manuals? Is that because the authors often seem to need help themselves? Or they all spout the same buzzwords and clichés? Or they are banal and boring? It sounds as if you are all self-help-manualed-out. Perhaps you need something different. Try Marcel Proust, revered master of exquisite expression and luminous prose. In Search of Lost Time, also called Remembrance of Things Past, Proust's one-and-a-quarter-million-word magnum opus, does not contain a trite sentence or conventional thought. You can learn much about living from such a profound genius, including how to spend your time, how to see and feel things, and why, sometimes, it is best just to stay in bed. Alain de Botton is your witty, often hilarious guide, providing valuable life lessons from Proust's writings and thoughts. getAbstract finds this ingenious, utterly original treatment thoroughly enjoyable. Wishing you the same.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2007
There is a section in this fantastic, unique work in which de Botton describes Proust's fanatical devotion to John Ruskin, the English art critic, an admiration which verged on infatuation. This book reveals that de Botton feels much the same way about Proust. Happily, the reader is left in absolutely no doubt as to why the author feels that way so insightful are the observations and so pertinent are the excerpts from "In Search of Lost Time". In fact, those without the time to read Proust's masterpiece (that is, almost everyone) will find no better synthesis of that great novel, and no more persuasive illustration of Proust's brilliance.
The whole experience is truly life-changing and, whilst the title does not reveal this, de Botton himself deserves some of the credit for that too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2012
What can I say about the master of procrustination and detailing the bleeding obvious in several chapters!
Un fair, I hear you moan. I know. Your're right.
Alain DeBotton's witty and concise critique of Proust in bibliographic format is up beat, insightful and funny! He refers to Proust as a sickly young man who showed immense sensitivity for his Parisian life style, his friends and especially his mother! Apparently, he literally couldn't take a dump without detailing every satisfactory and unsatisfactory movement to "mamon". When he went away on holidays, letter after letter, would detail how much he could or couln't eat, how much he could or couldn't sleep and the regularity of his bowel movements. Like wise mamon would relpy to her son, demanding more details concerning these matters. Weight, size, shape and shade became fundamental details of her son's well being.
Still, I guess, any mother or father worth their salt maintains a similarly watchful eye on the in and out trays of their off springs digestive system.
DeBotton, reviews different aspects of Proustian philiosophy: how to be a good friend, how to express emotion, how to take your time and so on. Each section being neatly summed up by DeBotton for its merits and de-merits. It was refreshing to see the author unafraid to refute Proust's views and offer an alternative. The last chapter is very powerful, to me anyway: how to put books down. Here both the subject and the author agree. Books are great, they enlighten, they impress, they reassure and they offer a dim light for errant souls. And here, in this last comment, lies the best part of DeBotton's book and the Proustian perspective. Should you read literture by the yard, find your head in permanant tilt in a nose bag of books and intoxicate yourself on the heady mix of word and expression; you'll only scratch the surface of the self. That is, yourself. As the author says, "even the finest books deserve to be thrown aside"
In short, worth a read and a good read at that, but no one, Proust or anyone else for that matter, can change your life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2011
This book is a tasty appetiser for anyone considering reading a bit of (or a lot of) Proust. Teasing out several themes representative of Proust's refections, De Botton elegantly combines novel excerpts, vignettes from Proust's life, and a perceptive and amusing commentary on both.
We're told how Proust said he would spend his final weeks if given notice of impending doom; how rich, deep, complex and worth savouring he found life; how strongly he advocated continually learning from misfortune.
We learn how vividly he identified fictional characters with real ones; how alert he was to the artistic skill of highlighting what the audience knew but had never articulated; and how passionate he was for originality, hence authenticity, versus imitation and cliché.
De Botton describes Proust's emphatic distinction between the amount of truth to be found in books and the amount to be found in relationships; and his delight in the edification of books in combination with continuing to think for ourselves.
He goes on to illustrate the ways Proust emphasised the importance of appreciating what you have, rather than what you might have; the value of the humble compared to the exalted; the greater reward we find in things we have had to yearn for; and how readily familiarity breeds contempt.
We are left in no doubt that Proust can change our life for the better.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 1998
De Botton's "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is yet another fix in the flux of experimental fiction, namely experiments on the essence of autobiographies and biographies. Previous examples of these particular experimental novels include Woolf's "Orlando", Stein's "The Autobiography of Alice B. Tolkas" and Winterson's "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit". De Botton's narrative is an indication of an influenced by Proust De Botton, and, interestingly enough, there are moments in the book itself where one can actually visualize the two authors in conversation. What is it that we can learn from the Master's experiences that are not included in his opus? One thing I learnt was that even Virginia Woolf was so enthralled with Proust's work that she almost gave up writing. However, she held her head high and continued trying and then came up with "Mrs. Dalloway". The book is in a DIY Acheive Happiness form, and what can be more refreshing today than that? My favorite chapter - in the sense that I have picked up something from it that will stay with me for life - is the "How To Open Your Eyes" chapter where De Botton points out that with a short story, Proust was trying to teach us an important lesson: namely, not to ascribe any value to the objects - tangible or non - that surround us but the _correct_ value. And in a world that tends towards superfluity and insatiability, what could be a better awakening?
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 25 September 2001
The author gives you Proust boiled down to its richest essence (and rich it is!) but without the usual idolising of the mere words that Proust wrote. Once you've read this book you'll have an understanding of how to see life like Proust without letting the trees get in the way of seeing the forest.
This book also has the most perfect last line I've ever read...
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2001
There's been a rush of Proust books of late, all claiming to lay bare the real secrets of the great author. To my mind, this is the only one that really matters, because it's the only that seems to have been written out of genuine love and passion, rather than some academic need to impress or get a better post at a university. It's a look at the philosophy and outlook on life of a truly profound writer.