The Sorrows of Reading about Work
For this month’s bookclub, we are reading Alain de Botton’s The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. I found de Botton’s voice condescending and arrogant. He refers to women as “symbols” one too many times for me–just because a woman is attractive doesn’t mean that she can’t be an effective salesperson independently of her looks.
Beyond the misogyny, I doubt de Botton’s ever had a “real job” in his life, and his quest to learn more about the world of work seems like a way for him to look down on all of us working drones. I read the book expecting to find out more about the unique aspects of these people’s lives and careers in rocket science, accounting, painting, electrical engineering–wouldn’t it be interesting to know what the daily routines of a rocket scientist are??
However, de Botton fills the book with overblown metaphors about the meaning of life and spends the rocket science chapter simultaneously poking fun at Japanese television and the desolate landscape of a poverty-stricken South American country. He watches a rocket launch in awe, then talks about how society has fallen prey to worshiping the false gods of science and technology over nature…when mere pages later, in the electrical engineering chapter, he goes on a tour of electrical pylons and waxes poetic about the power and beauty of these giant machines, lamenting with his companion the inability of people to see beyond the traditional beauty of the natural landscape. Which one is it, buddy? Nature or science?
Ultimately, de Botton makes his reader (most of whom likely have jobs that aren’t “fulfilling” in this sense of purpose he seems to equate with a meaningful life) feel inadequate and depressed, as though spending a life working for a living equates to wasting your talents in a soul-sucking vacuum of misery and stupidity. Too bad we can’t all spend our days traveling the country, gaining people’s trust and then judging them, write a book about it and consider ourselves some kind of expert.
I read non-fiction to learn new things. This book taught me one thing–never to read another book by de Botton.
A few snaps on my way to the office last week:
Scarf: Echo Designs via Salmagundi, Boston MA
Belt: J. Crew
Boots: Steve Madden
Hard to believe I was wearing tights and boots just last week!
Have you read a book recently that you were disappointed with?