Alain De Botton, Seth Godin and Will Self Walk Into A Bar

OK, so one of my favorite ever books (according to something that I filled in on myspace ten years ago) was Alain De Botton’s “The Art of Travel“.

The bit I like most is the when he says he’s holed up in a hotel somewhere in Europe – full of culture and opportunity to do new, novel and mind-enriching things. And he realizes that all he wants to do is sit in bed, order room-service and maybe watch TV. Actually, he’s pretty cultured and a high-falluting inte-me-lectual, so I probably made up the bit about TV. A man of his scholarly ways almost certainly doesn’t know how to operate such a wretched device, and would turn his talents to the Times cryptic crossword no doubt.

I had instant empathy (with an intellectual no less – look at me go!) as I knew that feeling all to well of squandering opportunity in foreign lands. With me, it would probably entail watching the A-Team in German and trying to use all of the complimentary things in the hotel room (save for the bible) even if it meant sewing a disposable toothbrush onto a shoe-shine cloth, rather than step outside into the desert and see the Pyramids of Giza.

It wasn’t until many years later that I listened to The Pleasures And Sorrows of Work by the same guy – Alain De Botton and realized just how pretentious he is. Not in a bad way. Just in using big words and flowery over the top description that alludes to Greek mythology and the other types of things you learn at public school in England. (Oh and for the septic readership, public means private when it comes to schools in the UK. Posh)

Given I read pretentious books, that makes me pretentious. At least I’ve stopped reading Will Self and pretending I understand what he’s on about. He uses all manner of big words – quite befitting of Britain’s smartest man. Being pretentious means that I teach my daughter to use arcane language to describe simple situations viz “I believe your hunger is sated and your belly replete, and I urge you to eschew consumption of more baked grain product topped with strawberry preserve.”

Seth Godin called again yesterday as I drove around Austin to release a forgotten peanut butter sandwich from a vacant Shady Hollows home. He told me to “Poke the Box”, and explained that bloggers can do it in three paragraphs. Maybe my internet diet means I can’t be arsed to read long, flowery text consisting of big words I don’t understand. So maybe that’s why I don’t read Will Self any more, and am going off De Botton.

I remember reading War and Peace during a prolonged layover in Western Sahara while I waited for a motorcycle part to arrive from England. A terribly dull book of which I can say I recall absolutely nothing, save that I used the old pages to clean oil from my (motorcycle) dipstick when I set off again. A 35,000 page book that made absolutely no impression on me. Still it didn’t stop me reading the Russians.

After naming one of my mother’s cats “Fyodor”, it seemed my pretentiousness was un-dulled by the passage of tedious pages and time. About five years later, Nicholas Condie asked what kind of books I read. I said a bit of Dostoyevsky, though I found it dull and hard to read. I said that I was partial to Irvine Welsh, whose books spanned such high-brow topics as football violence and drug abuse. Nicholas was a man of letters, and he said that perhaps if I wanted stories of junkies stabbing each other, I should avoid the Russians.

Which brings me back to Will Self. At least his books include junkies and odd genitals. I recall two fantastic short stories in which Self’s protagonist discovers a crack mine in his house – a vein of crack. High-jinx and hilarity ensue. The great news is that he is now blogging too, so he does it all in Seth’s three paragraphs. So it looks like it’s back to Self, although if you click on the latter link, you might need to look up the word parthenogenesis.

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