So, I – like countless others it seems – was drawn in by the pithy title of Mark Manson’s recent literary offering and found myself working through ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F@*k’. Now up front I must admit that I have exactly no previous or other contemporaneous experiences with Manson’s blog or other works – so my broader contextual knowledge of the author is lacking. The intent of this piece is to be somewhat of a ‘hot take’ on how I experienced the book, because I have mentioned it to several friends and co-workers who have all asked me for my opinion as they: ‘Keep hearing that that one is good’ and ‘Should get around to reading it someday’. So, I thought hey – I have a blog and a semi-review, semi ramble through my experience of the book, in a mostly spoiler free manner, definitely fits my style and tone. So why not save myself some time giving this opinion out on repeat to all my different circles of friends over the next few weeks and commit it to binary.
Like many of the books I ingest I took Manson’s text in through my ears – god bless Audible and saving me from literally hours of monotonous driving a week. A quick completely non-spon aside here, if somehow you still haven’t trued audiobooks, or at least podcasts, just do. They will change how you view downtime and chores forever. Anyway; Manson didn’t narrate his own book in this instance, which I found a strange choice…. Many bigger, presumably busier author’s do these days – I have found it to be the standard, rather than the exception, so the fact that I was left with an, admittedly excellent, interpretation rather than the complete experience of the author’s intent and definitive tone, was a touch saddening. But that is a risk of the format and apart from leaving me with several unanswered ‘why’ questions, this didn’t impact my ‘reading’ at all. As I have suggested the narrator (Roger Wayne) was fantastic, I found his dry tome to be wholly suited to the text.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@*k can be broadly split into 2 halves. The first is filled with punchy almost syllogistic ‘subtleties’ and the second is more fully fleshed out and so invariably contains far less sexy arguments from personal experience on the part of Manson. I must admit I have a vivid recollection from the initial chapters of the book. I was sitting at a set of lights (on Toombul road of all places) listening to Manson (Wayne) wax lyrical about how we should divest ourselves of all fucks and there is nothing that is really worthy of our completely disparate supply of these precious little fuckers…. “NIHILIST” the accusation burst forth from me. Dirty filthy good for nothing Nihilist! Peddling his dreary, melancholy philosophy as self-help and getting paid to do it. My guard was raised – this man was trying to corrupt my beautiful existentialism with his honeyed words of darkness – I was sure of it. But given that I had spent this month’s Audible credit on this book (and that I am a completionist and also far too lazy to swap books with any degree of regularity) I pressed on.
As the book progressed and Manson fleshed out his personal story and how he came to develop his subtle position, I began to once again relax my intellectual guard. This book was the work of a man who had known failure and betrayal first hand – who was lazy, self-piteous and self-indulgent in all the ways that I find loathsome in myself. When I have the introspective energy to spot the beasts lounging around in my psyche and putrefying the place. As I delved deeper into the world according to Mike Manson, I found myself not only seeing the subtle differentiation of Mark’s position from that of those stinking Nihilists I had been so quick to throw him in with earlier in the text. But I was also thoroughly taken with the particularly accessible and earthy manner in which Manson had constructed not only his book, but also his thought. To be just a touch more specific; Manson’s bruises can be seen in every ‘page’ of this book. The hard-won nature of his wisdom can actually be felt. There is conviction, passion and sometimes even vitriol in his words and that cannot be faked – at least not to someone who writes a nothing blog in the middle of nowhere on the internet to rid himself of surplus conviction, passion and sometimes vitriol. That was what drew me to the end of The Subtle Art – not so much a desire to fully flesh out Mark’s particular little slice of dark existentialism – but rather a feeling of kinship with someone who wanted his life and his pain to be something more than what they might otherwise be if left unexamined and untold.
The greatest strength of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@*k is that it and its author have honestly seen enough of the rougher side of life and don’t feel like watching you beat your head on the same old rocks. Despite having a start that might require some readers to steel themselves in order to get to the better meatier centre of the book – the journey is thoroughly worth taking – The Subtle Art is a charming and deeply relatable book that does deserves your time and one or two of your most precious resource -your fucks.