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Sex, Shopping and the Novel

by Alain de Botton

Pub Date: June 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13159-3
Publisher: Picador

 A sometimes diverting, sometimes loquacious and cutesy second novel from de Botton (On Love (1993), who once again combines a twentysomething off-again-on-again relationship with various sorts of mock-serious disquisitions on love and other topics. Alice, our heroine, is a ``dreamer'' who ``admired the great love stories with their enviable sense of necessity and inevitability.'' Despite this love ache, she's also incurably modern in her taste for irony and variety. After a long conversation with her sister Jane about reality, in a narrative replete with a ``Table of Reality'' that graphs the ingredients various thinkers have added to the reality recipe, she meets Eric, who ``turned out to be a most skilled lover,'' and the die is cast for de Botton: a mixture of overeducated mind-games played by a couple caught in the throes of romantic love; witty, sophomoric asides on almost every topic under the sun; and various kinds of graphs, pictograms, charts, and line drawings. For a while, Alice and Eric ``understood one another intuitively,'' despite Alice's addiction to shopping. In fact, the romance is such a committed one that the love-birds date for more than five months before trouble rears its ironic little head. Soon enough, the two are musing about the tragedy of ``outgrowing someone,'' and Alice is playing new games with Philip, the next possible someone in her life, though not letting Eric get away entirely. A mostly amusing bit of levity: a cross between Milan Kundera and Erich Segal, with some Vonnegut thrown in for spice. If de Botton's little drawings are often vapid, he's still a promising writer who entertains glibly more than he falls flat.