Just finished The Consolations of Philosophy, and while it took me a while to read a 250-odd page paperback, it was enjoyable stuff throughout.

De Botton picks 6 philosophers and 6 predicaments, one for each philosopher to console us. It’s attempt to make philosophy practical, then. The philosophers in questions are:

  • Socrates – Unpopularity
  • Epicurus – Not having enough money
  • Seneca – Frustration
  • Montaigne – Inadequacy
  • Schopenhauer – Broken heart
  • Nietzsche – Difficulties

So, the focus is pretty narrow on each one, this isn’t a reader on all aspects of each thinkers’ work. But de Botton picks out some excellent passages from the original works for quotatation, and his own explainations and examples are thoughfully and entertainingly done.

It’s a great little book, though whether it would ever be of any practical use I’m not sure. Itcertainly has put me in mind to read some more de Botton this year: I have Status Anxiety on the shelves and wouldn’t mind having a go at his Proust one at some point.

Consolations also has one brilliant joke, which really had me laughing out loud when I spotted it:

It is common to assume that we are dealing with a highy intelligent book when we cease to understand it. Profound ideas cannot, after all, be explained in the language of children. Yet the association between difficulty and profundity might less generously be described as a manifestation in the literary sphere of a perversity familiar from emotional life, where people who are mysterious and elusive can inspire a respect in modest minds that reliable and clear ones do not.

The Consolations of Philosophy

The Consolations of Philosophy

Am currently three-quarters of the way through Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. It’s good stuff so far. It dicusses a particular aspect of six philosophers’ work: Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Having looked up a couple of the texts covered in the book on Gutenberg I am happy to admit to being glad that de Botton explains it all so well. Indecipherable is not the word.

A Good Day to Die – Simon Kernick

A Good Day to Die is Kernick‘s fourth book, and it brings back the anti-hero of the first, disgraced ex-copper Dennis Milne.

A Good Day to Die

(Clicking the book cover takes you to Amazon – the commission helps fund Palimpsest)

Kernick’s books are a real strange mix, and I haven’t come across anything quite like them before. On one level, they are pretty standard thrillers, written with plot and pace in mind and conciously without any kind of literary embellishments.

But there are two things which set these apart from other books in the genre. Firstly, a rich vein of black humour runs throughout the book, and the numerous sarcastic asides do raise a smile on the face of the reader; which is all the more surprising given the second standout feature of Kernick’s work which is the sheer grimness of the subject matter. It really is heard to imagine a light-hearted romp involving murderous paedophile gangs, but that really is what this book is (kind of). So you have this real contradiction between style and content, but somehow it just works. I breezed through it in the space of a few hours reading time, I would say, and it’s a clear improvement on the earlier books and a good, no-nonsense read.

Three out of Five

Next read

After The Wasp Factory, which shouldn’t last much longer than this evening, I am going to have a crack at this:


Some good Palimthoughts from the ever reliable Self here.

More Wasp Factory

10.15 Am now on page 132 of The Wasp Factory now, roughly the half-way point. It isn’t getting any more normal! Banks’ writing, though, is superb. He keeps it full of dark suspense, and the black humour is hilarious and horrific. I wanted to read this partly because I knew it to be somewhat macabre and it certainly hasn’t disappointed. I can imagine it being a book I would want to re-read, though obviously not exactly for pleasure…

The Wasp Factory

I’m going to try and blog more about the books I am reading at the time, my thoughts and stuff as I am going through them. This will be especially true when I embark upon Ulysees, which will need plenty of notes taking just so I know what the hell is going on, I reckon. In fact, I’ll create a a sub-category under reading of Book Blogging, so all these notes can be pulled together.

The Wasp Factory is weird. Now, I like weird, and I am not squeamish in the least. But this book is so strange. The atmosphere, which I have seen described as ‘gothic’, which I guess it must be, is just so unsettling. The world that Frank, a sixteen year old, lives in is so different to anyone elses, yet similar enough to be very disconcerting. I’m about to start Chapter 4. This is peculiar but gripping.