Essays in Love
Alain de Botton
(McClelland & Stewart)
Even when falling in and then being in love, some people can't shut off the analytical parts of their brains. Where passion exists, so does reason---always and forever. The protagonist in Alain de Botton's Essays in Love certainly exhibits this condition. Though it purports to be a piece of narrative fiction, the story of the love between de Botton's unnamed narrator and Chloe, who he meets on a flight back to London (where the author actually lives), is not. Narrative is just a vehicle---a case study---for de Botton to investigate the philosophy of love and all its causes, effects, contingencies and implications. The dialogue can sound stuffy, stilted and unreal. And there's no real scene-setting or description. Still, knowing that going in, the reader can enjoy---with cruelty or compassion---the unnamed narrator's constant inductive thinking (when a particular experience between the pair infers a broader philosophical principle) and deductive thinking (when a certain treatise occurs to him and he finds a specific instance in his relationship to illustrate it). After all, these are essays, formal arguments. Paragraphs in each chapter/essay are even numbered, to evoke that sense of progressing through a case. An interesting attempt, but this is not de Botton's best work.
---Sean Flinn
type: book

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