I must admit that lately I have been in quite a lot of bookstores and seen books offered by the author Alain de Button, without really giving it any greater thought. My reading list is like the world population; constantly increasing and with all the recommendations I get from Tutors and friends I rarely find the necessity to sit down and research new authors. It was only by total coincidence that I stumbled upon “Essays In Love” by Alain De Button. An intriguing title considering my line of work and I am actually surprised not to have found it before through my research. Maybe it was suppose to happen, just like that magical meeting between a man and woman from which love springs.
Opening the first page I discover it is in fact not an essay but a story of love told from exactly that meeting until the bitter end. The “I” narration had me guessing for a while if this was in fact based on something true or if it was all fictional. He didn’t have me guessing for long though. Some factual aspects of the story are not at all realistic. Living in London (where the story takes place) knowing the way of living there in term of jobs, economy etc there are many things, which I find to be unbelievable even if the book has 20 years on it’s back.
However that said I enjoyed reading the majority of it. First of all because De Botton manages to do exactly what is lacking so much in Philosophy; to drag down all the theory and apply it to a situation that any individual would be likely to encounter. Cause that is the real means of this book. The story is somehow secondary but serves as a platform for explaining in a relatable manner all the stages a relationship goes through. The thoughts that one can have about the significant other and the joys and doubts, feelings of despair and wishes for revenge after a break up and how one after all so easily can fall again even after having a painful experience.
The book was not only an interesting read but from time to time I found myself laughing to myself, by his funny way of describing some situations, drawing diagrams and making calculations for how unbelievable lucky the two protagonists had been to run into each other.
I have to say that before reading it I was questioning how much new he could offer considering the amount of literature there is about this subject already, but I was surprised by some of his statements (not all of which I agree with) and like all good authors he managed to put some feeling into words that I have not yet been able to utter, even if I have felt them.
Out of all I would like to highlight one thing, which is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. De Button tries to dissociate himself with the modern use of not only the word love but also the cheesiness that commercial love today is engulfed in. (personally I think that you have to distance yourself from that to be able to write anything serious on this subject.) But especially being a writer in English you have to come to terms with the fact that Love is a word, which is used loosely about everything at anytime and is getting worn out, so that saying “I love you” simply becomes a platitude among all the others. Our society loves love so much that we have actually ruined its original meaning and are now only left with an imitation, which is constantly trying to impose its idea of how love should be.
De Button describes a scenario where the feelings of love is actually felt but can’t be uttered because the male character can’t have his love associated with that kind of commercial/romantic idea. And although the substitute of love in this story is something as soft, sweet and pink as a marshmallow I get the metaphor and also the irony which is actually that love is hard to describe without touching the cheesy side, even for a philosopher.
With this book Alain De Button put himself right into my consciousness, and I can’t wait to read his two books “the romantic movement” and “How to have better sex” which I hope can give me even more interesting thoughts on the modern relationship.