The 11 Most Alain de Botton Sentences in Alain de Botton’s...

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HACKS JANUARY 31, 2014

The 11 Most Alain de Botton Sentences in Alain de Botton’s New Book

Britain's most semicolon-happy philosopher, Alain de Botton, has a new volume out February 6. The News: A User's Manual broaches the problems of twenty-first century media outlets with de Botton's signature flourish. Offering itself as a guide to the onslaught of constant news, the book takes its readers through a number of different media spectacles. A sampling of his guidance:

1. “The news is committed to laying before us whatever is supposed to be most unusual and important in the world: a snowfall in the tropics; a love child for the president; a set of conjoined twins.” (10)

2. “For most of human history, there simply wasn’t any news to be bored by.” (24) 

3. “In the ideal news organization of the future, the ambitious tasks of contextualization and popularization would be taken so seriously that stories about welfare payments would be (almost) as exciting as those about incestuous Antipodean cannibals.” (33)

4. “Here the water-stained, derelict, cracking concrete buildings suggest that despair is to be expected and that the best way to resolve an argument would be to shout or shoot.” (37)

5. “Our nation isn’t just a severed hand, a mutilated grandmother, three dead girls in a basement, embarrassment for a minister, trillions of debt, a double suicide at the railway station and a fatal five-car crash by the coast.” (43)

6. “[Our nation] is also the cloud floating right now unattended over the church spire, the gentle thought in the doctor’s mind as he approaches the patient’s bare arm with a needle, the field mice by the hedgerow, the small child tapping the surface of a newly hardboiled egg while her mother looks on lovingly, the nuclear submarine patrolling the maritime borders with efficiency and courage, the factory producing the first prototypes of a new kind of engine and the spouse who, despite extraordinary provocations and unkind words, discovers fresh reserves of patience and forgiveness.” (44) 

7. “Rome fell, but 600 years later everything was almost back to normal again.” (51)

8. “My first surprise was that I had to go on a journey to get to Uganda.” (94)

9. “For example, I thought I knew about child marriages, but until I saw a photograph taken by Stephanie Sinclair, I had never realized that the young brides involved aren’t really children.” (114)

10. “What is above us in the atmosphere is daily simplified into one or another of those icons beloved of weather forecasters, which, in their naive reductiveness, stand in relation to the subtleties of the sky rather as news reports stand in relation to the complexities of existence.” (211)

11. “The modern world tends towards unanimous agreement that art is extremely important, something close to the meaning of life.” (235)

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