28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Inspiring, ingenious, impenetrable. It doesn't help at all.
, 1 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Art of Failure - The Anti Self-Help Guide (Paperback)
At first, I did not like the title at all. The Art of Failure. It deeply disturbed me. Just like many other things in this books which make you think. The book is a pleasure to read and it is highly entertaining. Start reading the first page and you will not stop. Yet, if you start thinking about your art of living and consider what the book means for you, it may become impenetrable and very disturbing. It may change your life - without helping you at all.
The Art of Failure comprises several inspiring themes. Madness, the meaning of life, death, freedom, friendship, happiness and truth. Neel Burton draws on a wide range of inspiring authors - Plato, Freud, Kant, Jung, Russel, and Aristotle to name just a few. As the title suggests, the book will not offer you a way to the kind of 'happiness' you expect from a self-help guide. Rather, it introduces the type of happiness certain philosophers experienced. One of Burton's shining examples of the art of failure and perhaps an epitome of the book is Diogenes who was enjoying the morning sunlight when Alexander the Great visited him. Alexander asked whether there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes only told him to step out of the sunlight. Episodes such as these - many of which are less known than Diogenes' - make the Art of Failure my favourite, all-you-ever-need, anti self-help guide. I would be somewhere else without reading this book, so it definitively did not help. I started to like the title, especially as it epitomises what life should be. Failure in the eyes of most and an art which makes life worth living. I still do not like the cover image, but that might change.
One of my favourites in this book is the mzungu passage. In the Western world, we are usually engaged in some kind of task which keeps us busy. And we are unhappy if we don't have a set of things to do - whether we are waiting for the bus, are on holidays, or are trying to enjoy our leisure time. People in Kenya, for example, do not share the worldview that it is worthwhile to spend all of our time rushing from one task to the next. Westerners are therefore called mzungus in Swahili - which literally translates as those who go round and round in circles.
My suggestion is therefore that you pause going round in circles for a moment and buy this book. Even if you do not like the title or some of the impenetrable questions it raises. Also, it is good value for your money, as you can read it more than once.
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