Reading (not) Proust

So I finally got around to reading How Proust Can Change Your Life.
I know. I know. A decade later than everyone else. What’s your point?
But I really never seem to be as impressed by Alain de Botton as other people. The Consolation of Philosophy was fine, so far as pop philosophy goes, but his self-referential style sometimes makes me squirm. I actively disliked The Art of Travel.
By the time we get to read the more recent releases (Status Anxiety, or whatever it was, and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work) there has been so much hype and endless exclusive interviews, there’s little left to actually learn or absorb from his writing.
I don’t get it.
If I’m in the mood for a quick dip I’d much rather read A C Grayling. Or the originals. Or even Monty Python (“Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle”, from memory) which, let’s face it, can provide just as much consolation in certain situations as Boethius.
Equally hilarious, albeit unintentionally, is Fromelles, by Patrick Lindsay. I’m alternating between reading it with glee and throwing it in a corner and trying to forget I ever started it.
And don’t go accusing me of being unAustralian or spitting on the graves of our poor dead Digger ancestors. It’s simply a poorly written book.
The only way to read it, I’ve decided, is to actively engage with its most maddening fault: that is, play Count the Cliche.
Pick a page – any page. Here are a few from a single paragraph on page 2, for example:
“two armies faced each other locked in a death struggle” (that might count as two)
“hunkered down”
“young men, brimming with promise and potential”
“show no outward fear, but their eyes betray them”
“the air is foul with cordite”
“you can feel it in your bones”
“moment of truth”
“pent-up kinetic energy”
“straining like dogs on the lead”
“count the minutes”
“taste of battle”
“invincibility of youth”
“prove his manhood”
And as a special bonus, that’s all in randomly alternating first and second person.
Then there’s a History Channel-style outline of World War 1, complete with the usual (and again cliched) outraged editorialising about Haig et al.
Oh it’s fabulous.
I really wish I could get to the bit where they start researching and digging for what will no doubt be “the forgotten Anzacs”. But I’m not sure I can last that long.

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