Now this is one of those big modern classics that everybody ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ about. It played a pivotal part in the movie Serendipity, and is adored by the same people who plaster their walls with Monet’s water lily paintings and who dream of going to Paris for their wedding. What’s wrong with that, you might demand? I’ll let Alain de Botton respond:

“Aren’t cliches ideas that have proved rightly popular? The problem with cliches is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones… Cliches are detrimental insofar as they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while only grazing its surface.”

By buying into traditional expressions of culture and taste, such people limit their potential for not only greater and deeper enjoyment, but also sacrifice a more accurate representation of their own selves (the tragedy!). People buy and display common brands in order to present themselves to the world; Monet posters, Hello Kitty backpacks, Prada sunglasses and Mercedes all project a common image that simplifies one’s persona, and advertizes to the world who you are. It can also act as an aid for understanding one’s self. What kind of person am I? I am the kind of person who adores Love in the Time of Cholera.

That is why I approached this book with misgivings. Anything that so readily lends itself to being appropriated as a kitschy favorite earns my instant suspicion! Which is unfair, because as de Botton stated, the very reason they are appropriated is because they actually are good. I need to appreciate it for its own intrinsic value, and not simply flaunt it as a sign of my own cultural eliteness! (Which, ironically, is cultural eliteness as its best. I’m not faux-elite. I’m the real thing!)

Ok, enough analysis. Next post: the review!