The Course of Love-Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton trains his philosophy on the arch of a romantic relationship between Rabih and Kristen.
I so, so, so, so wanted to love this novel. I adored On Love/Essays on Love and that kind of was my gateway drug to the sometimes strange and iffy but always accessible philosophy of de Botton and friends. It's so rare that a novel will get you to read non fiction but that is what Essays on Love did for me. The Course of Love would not have done that. I don't even really fully understand why. I mean, this is a premise I can really get behind: love, relationships take a lot of work and you'll actually never get to know another person fully. So I recognized much of what de Botton is saying as true. I guess, part of it was the format? de Botton writes about Rabih and Kristen with a sort of clinical distance. They were merely a case study being discussed as part of a pedantic conference paper. Like you could replace Rabih and Kristen with pieces of pottery, add some concepts like "signalling" or whatever and you wouldn't lose any warmth and humanity. (I actually did this for some passages because I was procrastinating actually writing a conference paper...and it worked.) So, I felt like it was written in a way that was so alienating. There was also a bit of a lack of attention to the two cultures in questions-the differences in culture were relegated to asides (deeply pedantically anthropological in tone-I know from experience) and that detracted from an excellent point. Despite their disparate geographical origins, they were both damaged but love, reflection, and work brought them together.
I finished this novel disappointed-a victim to my high expectations and nostalgia. High scores for the message, let down by the delivery.