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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 February 2014
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. Many aspects covered are similar to those the author writes about in The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life makes it Hard to be Happy but are looked at from perhaps a slightly different angle.

My final verdict would be that if you only ever plan to go for one of Foley's books, The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life makes it Hard to be Happy is probably the one to go for. If, however, you enjoy some further stimulus to your thinking in the direction of everyday life, are not turned off by Joyce or Proust and take it slower than with the first book, there is still much that is good here.
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on 19 July 2012
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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on 2 September 2012
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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on 23 March 2015
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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on 21 May 2016
Using two such high falutin sources like Proust and Joyce to illuminate the ordinary as Foley does in this text seems rather inappropriate to my view. These authors are still very hard to access for ordinary people and its all a bit like asking a physicist what life is all about. He has some ok ideas about how these authors open the ordinary but if you need these authors to do it for you then actually reading them is just too much hard work. in my opinion the book also loses steam after only a few chapters.
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on 9 December 2014
Slightly heavy going in parts but theme good fun. Persevere.
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on 25 September 2013
Don't bother, seriously! After reading Mr Foley's previous book, which I liked hugely, I bought this too quickly. The author seems to have developed a fetish for slavishly name-dropping Marcel Proust and James Joyce in every other bloody sentence! I thought he might have got it out of his system after the first chapter or two, but no, it just goes on and on and on. This isn't a book about everyday life, it's a book about how Michael Foley thinks that Marcel Proust and James Joyce are totally cool and brilliant and how he wants to tell us about it, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again! At first it was funny, and then annoying and finally made me throw the book across the room. I think later chapters may have described what Proust and Joyce could teach us about mechanical diggers, cheeseburgers and lawnmowers, but I didn't get that far!!
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on 30 December 2013
Proust and Joyce are fine authors but this hymn of praise to them is a bit obsessive and fails to make the ordinary that interesting. Of course, neutrality is fine and the ordinary world is full of eccentricity but I found the book nothing more than a mild, very mild diversion. Not in the same class as "the age of absurdity".
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on 13 July 2012
I looked forward to this book and bought it within a few days of publication. I loved The Age of Absurdity to the point I have a hard copy and a Kindle copy. This is NOT more of the same. It is an extended 'compare and contrast' essay on Proust and Joyce and I don't think this has been made fully clear in the blurb. Of course, if this is what I had wanted, I wouldn't be disappointed and I'm sure Mr Foley would have something to say about expectations here. Chapter one promises a different kind of book and I wish that the author had stuck to expanding the ideas in this chapter. His writing can be very poetic but the subject matter is way too esoteric for me. I did wonder if he wrote it as a joke to see what he could get away with. It is clearly impossible to follow The Age of Absurdity. My advice if you havent read either is to read TAOA, twice.
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on 12 July 2013
I have both his recent books and have been impressed with his thoughtful take on people and the world we live in. Highly recommended.
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