Consume Prey Promote
This book (you know which I mean and, no, I am not going to type its name) seems to have taken over, now that there’s a film of same, appropriately showcasing the vapid Julia Roberts – whose range extends from mouth open to mouth shut. I had a quick butcher’s through the book in a local library once. Then, having heard the hype – hard to avoid, so deafening and inescapable was it – dutifully returned for a more sustained second shufti. I emerged still thinking the work a pile of steaming self-congratulatory self-indulgence.
Here’s the story: a woman in her thirties, successful, healthy and good-looking; with nice husband, home and job; becomes bored, realises she doesn’t want children so dumps the spouse. She is subsequently assailed by what she calls ‘depression’ and which the rest of us – including, and most especially, genuine sufferers from depression – recognise as self-pity, as she sobs on bathroom floors after the inevitable rebound romance inevitably goes bung. After a few chirpy chapters spent in this author’s company, the phrase ‘bottomless pit of emotional demand’ comes to mind. Or, more succinctly, ‘egomaniac’.
So what does this bright, successful, confident and resourceful female do post-crise? Well, she trots off and secures an advance from her publishers sufficiently large to enable her to take an entire year off, travelling in style and indulging every whim, and – adding these together – write a triumphal ‘memoir’ about how she found herself and loved what she found, and everybody else loved her too. And everybody else does, or at least they love the book. Doubtless many will love the film, too. Good grief, what kind of society have we made, if this intellectually and emotionally dishonest tosh is so widely mistaken for wisdom?
Now in case you’re wondering, I can assure you that I am not against eating, praying or loving. Far from it.
Take eating. Before I arrived in France I spent four consecutive English winters – all eight months of ‘em – deciding which to do, eat or have the heating on. And guess what: eating won hands down, every time. So, no, eating is fine by me. And I know how pleasurable it can be. It bloody well has to be: if you’re freezing your tits off in some insalubrious gaff, something tasty to eat – a bowl of home-made soup, for example – is marvellously comforting.
Prayer, too. Believe me, much praying is done when redundancy is followed by long-term unemployment. And again, when one’s sole opportunity for reconstruction, based on expensive re-acquaintance with full-time education in middle-age, is scuppered by critical illness just as a feasible new start becomes a real prospect. Add the loss of loved ones, home, pets and possessions, and all of that tends to elicit a fair bit of the “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, Christ!” routine, not to mention serious soul-searching and regular tussles with clinical depression. You may take my word for it.
Love? Nobody can live entirely without it, in all its – thankfully, multifarious – forms. That’s a given.
So why does somebody need to spend 12 months in exotic locations to uncover such self-evident truths? Except, of course, to write a shallow, self-obsessed travelogue complete with supporting cast of ‘quaint, lil’ ole characters’.
What would I say, supposing anyone were foolish enough to seek my advice on matters spiritual? I might, if pushed very hard, suggest they read Boethius and the ‘shewings’ of Dame Julian of Norwich. Although I’d probably recommend time spent in tranquility – or, more likely, advise the questioner to sod off and stop bothering me. So let us instead, dear reader, play a little mind game. What, do you suppose, would be the chances of a synopsis submitted to his publishers by the equivalent-person-who-happened-to-be-male – yup, one of those: extra chromosome; dangly bits? And, yes, I know a spoof has already been published (hooray!). But what if a male author tried the same journey? Let’s look at the possible pitch:
“Here’s me: handsome, fit, mid-thirties; nice house; good job, published author; nice wife. My wife wanted kids! Yuk. So I legged it. Anyway, I was bored with all this ….niceness. Where’s the challenge in that? More to the point, where was I? Who was I? And, in the best traditions of equal ops., why should women have the monopoly on these questions?
So I divorced the broody bint, divvied up the proceeds of sale of the conjugal home, got my leg over a few birds then got, well, y’know … You do. You know. That thing. Must you ask me to spell it out? Oh, IF YOU MUST: I got depressed, right? Ended up … you don’t want to know about this. You do? Have you seen a doctor recently? Only joking. I ended up a mess – tears, snot … I can do other bodily fluids, if you like. You don’t?
Here’s the deal, right: you bung me X hundred thousand smackers, and I doss off to … Ooh, let me see, now – fit totty + good grub in Italy, great curries + amazing insights in India, then gurus + Aussie glam in Bali … You fund me for a year’s shagathon-scoffathon with a pinch of spirituality, plenty of the old early mid-life crisis male desperation together with the odd STD and yearning for love thrown into the mix. Then – here’s the clincher – I write it all up in a form which loudly proclaims ‘behold how wonderful am I, and how entitled to the best of everything simply because of all that over-privileged blokedom’?
Should be a blast. Best-seller. Film …”
Wouldn’t play, would it? You think me cynical? Really? Just consider what the book itself actually does. It takes the traditionally arduous journey to spiritual awakening and subjects it to the same process applied by Disney to Grimm’s Märchen or Andersen’s eventyr: sanitising, trivialising, ensuring the end product is devoid of any depth or challenge – rendering it meaningless. Therefore, the writer learnt precisely nothing – and yet makes a mint out of offering the consumer, sorry, reader the same yawning void. Now that’s cynicism.
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