Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

I just got back from a resort in Playa del Carmen, which had a beautiful beach, plenty of food/booze, and a ton of old people. I was surrounded by James Patterson novels and cataracts. Meanwhile, I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life* and took the snide looks in stride, not giving a single f*ck.

I am wary of self-help books, especially ones with bright orange covers that claim to be super chill. I’m happy to say that while this book is self-helpy, it’s not the insufferable kind. Mark Manson, the author, poses some questions that I had never before asked myself. He had me doing a mental health double-take. There are some “duh” moments, but he adds twists that make self-improvement more accessible and navigable.

Last year, I read The Power of Habit and, while I respect the book’s well-researched theories about forming and breaking habits, it all sounded like a ton of work. You know when you want to change some things but you only want to put in minimal effort? I’m lazy! And I’m not sure I want to change that just yet.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is less scientific and more opinionated, but I still find Mark Manson's advice helpful and applicable. Like… I’ve actually been trying some of his approaches. Here’s a lil taste of his perspective: Everyone is wrong all of the time--growth is about becoming a little less wrong. Give fewer f*cks. We are responsible for every single thing in our lives-- the good and the bad. Commitment paradoxically gives you freedom.

I can't help but wonder-- what makes him qualified to talk about any of this? I mean, the guy is 35; it's not like he’s drawing from a well of experience. But whatever, who cares? He has opinions on how to live a meaningful life and it seems to work for him. What’s the worse that can happen-- I take his advice and spend some time reflecting on my values? The horror!

We're all just trying out best out here, right? Manson (no relation to Charles... I think) provides a new lens with which to try your best. And he's funny at times. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck receives 3 out of 5 camel humps.

*Manson, Mark. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeNew York: HarperCollins, 2016. Print.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Native Son

Native Son* by Richard Wright is a challenge. Wright challenges your sense of right/wrong, he challenges your understanding of race in America, and he challenges your attention span, because his book is too long and overly repetitive.

Wright’s main character, Bigger Thomas, commits a crime; the novel goes on to indirectly excuse the crime, arguing that the systemic racism of Chicago in the 1930's made the offense inevitable. Wright’s painting of a racist, segregated Chicago is valid and powerful. The idea that Thomas is not entirely responsible for his crime is hard to swallow. Like when you accidentally swallow a full ice cube and your throat feels like a cavernous abyss that just betrayed you and you turn to your mom and cry because you don’t think you’ll ever be able to swallow properly again. Kinda like that.

Truly, Bigger Thomas is an unlikeable narrator. I really, really did not like him. But I appreciate why Wright wrote him that way (lol *wright wrote*). If a likeable character commits a crime, we might try and exempt him. If an unlikeable character commits a crime, it’s easy for us to label him as guilty-- he’s a criminal and he sucks. Wright shows us: Bigger Thomas is unlikeable, he’s guilty, and he’s a victim. As readers, we’re forced to confront the subtle reasons for why we might not like him/not have empathy for him.

Native Son asks important questions but that does not mean it is a good read. The first portion is riveting; it has crime, drama, suspense, and horror. The second half is subdued and tedious; it belabors the point. I can’t in good faith strongly recommend a book that I believe is 150 pages too long, even if the content is historically (and presently) significant and necessary. So, Native Son receives 2 out of 5 camel humps.

*Wright, Richard. Native Son. New York: HarperCollins, 1940. Print.