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117 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Reminder Of Simple Truths
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...
Published on 3 Oct 2004 by Mr. S. J. Wade

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A pain in De Botton.
Monsieur De Botton is a darling of the chattering classes in that he allows people to talk over dinner tables about books he has read for them.
However, this did not prepare me for the breathtaking vanity of this bourgeoise rent-a-philosopher.
On page 26 of my paperback edition I was stunned to see a half-page photo of the author's girlfriend, her name coupled...
Published 12 months ago by Devil's Advocate


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109 of 125 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One for literary snobs, 26 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I am a mixed de Botton fan (some books I love, some I loathe) and I didn't enjoy this because I read it after 'Consolations of Philosophy', which is much, much better. I have to say that de Botton does write well and with a great deal of charm but is this book really saying anything. For example: De botton spends a fair number of pages in Chapter 1 discussing how we see people we love in characters in books. He does this amusingly, including photos of his girlfriend, but at the end of the day, it is hardly a staggering point, or one of much relevance to anything, really. This is the case with much of the book. It all sounds very clever, but when you strip away the fancy words and distill the essence of the points, they are essentially quite shallow. In this respect, the book does perform a feat, in that it gives the illusion of saying very many profound things, when in fact it doesn't at all. It's the sort of book that literary snobs / upper class readers will therefore love - and who will be so won over by his writing style and the fact that he makes Proust accessible, they will fail to notice this error.
The other problem is that this book isn't really about Proust, it's about de Botton. Like 'THe Romantic Movement', it's a very narcisstic book, where de botton is more interested in his own ideas than his subject's. It's as if de Botton has laid out his own life philosophy and used Proust to prop him up. Proof of this is shown in the chapter on love, which echoes many of de Botton's theories in his earlier novels. Only this time round he manages to make it look as though they are really Proust's ideas, and he just happens to agree.
I just found this book far too pretentious for its own good. However, 'Consolations of Philosophy' is much better - somehow it is written with a great deal of humanity, and you sense de Botton really wishes to help people, but this one reads as though he is just showing off.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of his lot, 17 Feb 2007
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
While some of his later books struggle to marry the chirpy narrative style with the weight of ideas, this one does it perfectly. de Botton's finest hour. it will make you want to read Proust. And that is no mean feat. gloriously, it will allow you to sound as though you have read it all without ever having opened a page of the impenetrable texts!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Proust Can Change Your Life, 5 Sep 2012
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first class Warm up Act, 4 July 2011
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paving the Way, 17 Jun 2011
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Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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I thought this quirky mixture of selective biographical details and literary analysis might pave the way to my good intentions to complete at least the first volume of Proust's "Remembrance of Times Past". Presenting his ideas in short sections under subheadings makes for an easy, if fragmented read.

Proust spent much of his adult life in bed, was plagued with illness and pain although probably also a hypochondriac, and sounds distinctly bi-polar in, for instance, his obsession with the distracting effects of noise, and occasional bursts of manic activity, as when he translated Ruskin's work, despite having a very limited initial knowledge of English. Were these traits critical to his unusual ability to observe, describe and philosophise about minute aspects of human behaviour and motivation?

I would have liked more detail on this complex man whose excessive politeness led his friends to coin the verb "to proustify" but who also held that friendship expresses itself in futile conversations which only "indefinitely repeat the vacuity of a minute" and is in the end no more than a lie to make us believe that we are not irremediably alone".

I was impressed that De Botton was only about 28 when this book was first published. There is something "young fogeyish", facetious and a little too clever by half in his tone, but he succeeds in highlighting some thought-provoking aspects - perhaps the essence - of Proust's writing, from which he quotes very effectively. For instance, Proust noted that there is nothing particularly special about the poplars Monet loved to paint, but through the painter's interpretation, one can learn to appreciate the trees in one's own experience more. Reading can open one's eyes to the surrounding world, but writers should not be worshipped: even the greatest books have limitations - they do not provide blueprints for living or conclusions, but only "incitements" to understand more. So, it is ironical that the very ordinary village of Illiers has added the suffix "Combray" from Proust's imaginary settlement and become a place of pilgrimage where visitors buy madeleines supposedly of the type Proust so famously described.

It is easy to understand why Virginia Woolf was so elated by the "vibration and saturation" of Proust's writing, yet also depressed by the sense that she could not begin to write as well- although in her own original way, she achieved greatness.

Selecting the above points has made me realise the degree of skill De Bouton has exercised in expressing his ideas, but I think he has limited his impact by being a bit too jokey and trite, particularly at the end of chapters.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop and look and appreciate, 17 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I found myself smiling as I read this book. It has a tickly quality that amuses and delights. It should contain instructions on how often to read it, because as Proust persists in saying, we are blinded to the delights of our world by familiarity and habituation. Although it cannot change your life, it can give you a holiday from the habit of not appreciating the one you have. You are very clever Alain De Botton.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful revisit to Proust, 24 April 1999
By A Customer
Reading Remembrance of Things Past in my 20's changed my life, (30 year's ago), so it was a pleasure to revisit the experience with this book. This delightful book is a paean to Proust slyly disguised as self help--with a few jabs to Proust's weaknesses, which is the best way to approach a masteripiece. Proust especially influenced my attitudes toward friendship. At an age when every quarrel meant the end of a relationship, Proust's view, which was from the end of his life, gave me frankly, a view of a life as a work of art, or at least a story that over time made sense.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars style over substance, 25 Feb 2013
sadly disappointing - although elegantly expressed, his observations were ultimately crude and his attempt to relate each one to modern life somehow forced. a shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Proust Can Change Your Life, 22 Sep 2012
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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I have never read Proust and this is the first book I've read by Alain De Botton. I am now intrigued by Proust as it seems he had some interesting things to say about everyday life and the problems which beset us all. Falling in love, friendship and putting books down among other subjects are covered in this interesting little book.

As well as receiving some useful life advice such as listening to your friends rather than insisting on telling them about yourself and your concerns; I formed a vivid picture of Proust himself. I liked the way he moved round the table when he held dinner parties so that each of his guests received his undivided attention for a time. Yes he was a hypochondriac and valetudinarian but he was also a good friend and has many useful things to say about friendship.

It seems from reading this book that Proust's epic novel concentrates on everyday happenings as demonstrated by the famous madeleine incident. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about not taking your own views from famous authors but using them as jumping off points to establish what you yourself think. Read books but don't take them as absolute truths - think for yourself as well.

I thought it was interesting that Virginia Woolf felt her own work was no good at all after reading Proust as she thought he had written the perfect novel and there was no point in anyone writing anything else. Overall this is an interesting book as it is a mixture of biographical information about Proust himself and a dissection of some of his writing. If you're wondering about reading Proust but are wary of dipping a toe in the water then this would be a good place to start.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars much ado about not very much, 4 Feb 2012
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I have read and enjoyed almost all of De Botton's books, and was expecting to enjoy this too, but I found this to be very disappointing. De Botton has gathered together Marcel Proust's thoughts from his public and private writings on a range of subjects including, amongst others, 'How to Love Life Today', 'How to Express Your Emotions', and 'How to be a Good Friend'. Interesting topics, and well written by De Botton, but there is so little that is revelatory or thought provoking here that what could have been fascinating was, for me a least, a bit of chore to read through.

Disappointing - De Botton has written many much better books than this one
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How Proust Can Change Your Life
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 20 Jan 2006)
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