THE HAPPY LIFE by David Malouf


The Search for Contentment in the Modern World
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A slim volume of meditations on the conundrum that is happiness.

Early on in the book, Malouf (Ransom, 2010, etc.) reflects on the unique position we find ourselves in with regard to the idea of "unrest," noting that something seemingly in opposition to a broad idea of happiness has undergone a reversal of sorts. Smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, constant news updates, etc.—the situation maintains a state of unrest, without which we're faced with unendurable inactivity, stillness and quiet. The author notes that it's likely that a majority of people reading this book would, when asked if they are happy, report that they "can't complain”—even though the opposite is often true, with disgruntlement about politicians, the pace of modern life and other issues leading to a too-common base line of unrest. Malouf bounces among ideas throughout this short book, calling on a who's-who of philosophers and writers for historical perspective on the winding path happiness has taken through the milleniums. Perhaps the world's interconnectedness in the digital age has led to an increased feeling of insignificance; perhaps not, but Malouf takes these theories and mines Seneca, Thomas Jefferson and others to shed light on both the ideas and their naysayers. At certain points, the author comes off as crotchety and out-of-touch with current realities, but the majority of the text is engaging.

A tidy introduction to basic philosophies and their relation to how we view our happiness.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-90771-4
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2012


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