Category: Musings

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Review

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Review

I’m not sure how many people I have actually recommended this book to – I know that half of them don’t necessarily take it seriously, or they’ll think it’s a good idea to read it but then forget about it all over again, but I just can’t stop talking about it. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is the first book I’ve read in what I guess would be considered the ‘self help’ genre – but it was nothing like what I expected ‘self help’ books and guides to be like, and I think that’s why it struck such a chord with me.

The Subtle Art, written by blogger Mark Manson, calls itself a ‘counter-intuitive approach to living a good life’, and this is exactly what it is (with the emphasis being on the counter-intuitive part). I’m not afraid, this time, to share ‘spoilers’ from the book because I’m hoping these will give an insight and overview to the book that you don’t get from the blurb – and if you kinda know what it’s about, you’ll know whether it’s worth a read for yourself or not. My wish is the former; I think everyone should read it.

The book’s overlying message (it seems to me) is that we, as people, really need to get our priorities straight. Not in terms of what society’s expectations for us are – because everyone knows there are an insurmountable number of those – but that we should try harder to change our attitudes and expectations towards ourselves, and focus on achieving attainable, personal goals. It’s kinda the same thing you hear in a lot of movies, no matter what the genre; the things that are important are close family, friends, human relationships and small comforts (which Manson sees as ‘internal’ goals, good ones) and not wealth, fame, glory or the everlasting freedom to travel the globe (‘external’ goals, bad ones).

As a recent graduate, it was a great thing to read. I was actually introduced to it by my Dad, who gave me his battered copy, but once I started reading it I was instantly unable to put it down. It just made so much sense, it was like a breath of fresh air after the existential crises I was having every other Tuesday. So many things that I had been feeling and thinking, but wasn’t sure why I was carrying those thoughts around, I was suddenly given explanations for.

Using various examples from people in real life, Manson’s own life, and even celebrities, Manson shows the various ways that people choose their emotions and choose their goals, even if these are what is making them unhappy, or making them feel lost – we are responsible for our own downfalls? Controversial, I know! His reaction, however, is more complicated than what you would expect for the book’s title – it’s not really about “not giving a f*ck”, but choosing what you give a f*ck about. It’s about learning how to ask yourself the really difficult questions in order to get what you want.

The Subtle Art hits home hard, but Manson’s writing is easy to follow and extremely down to earth. A lot of the time it really feels like he’s talking to you; this is also where the book’s biggest problem lies. It doesn’t always necessarily flow. The chapters are split up in such a way as to give some semblance of structure but it rambles, probably because he is originally a blogger and he is just talking to us, his readers, about what’s in his head. It also doesn’t really give ‘try it yourself’ exercises to help you learn to start asking hard questions, or give you things to do to start to change, it just explains why you should change and then expects us to know what to do. But I guess that’s part of the challenge – figuring out for yourself what you really want, not waiting on someone else to give you the answer.

Overall, The Subtle Art is a book beyond anything I’ve ever read. It might mean that I try reading other ‘self help’ books to give them a comparison, but I know I’m going to be reading Manson’s book a second time to really understand how to change my perspective on life. A refreshingly down to earth, no nonsense read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck shows you, ultimately, that f*cks are the most important things to give, to the things in life that warrant them most. Verdict: 9/10.

The Breakfast Club: 33 Years Later

The Breakfast Club: 33 Years Later

It’s been exactly 33 years since the day that five teenagers entered the library at the imaginary Shermer High School for their Saturday detention – it’s been 33 years since Brian wrote a letter to Mr Vernon dismissing his prejudices of them as people rather than just teenagers – and so it felt like a poignant time to discuss my love and admiration for the fantastic film that is The Breakfast Club.

Since first watching it at sixteen, I have found The Breakfast Club refreshingly unique, even if it does deal with some of the most stereotypical, archetypal characteristics of young people I have ever seen. But that’s the subtle beauty of the whole film, and why I think John Hughes did such a wonderful thing with it; the whole point of the film is that the outside world, the camera and the school, teachers and parents, see these teenagers as their stereotypes – but somehow, through meeting each other on a Saturday, they realise this is not who they are at all.

Insightful, wonderful, and also very weird, The Breakfast Club jumps about all over the place; the teens yell at each other, spit insults and threaten each other, before suddenly running around the school, smoking weed, dancing and spilling their deepest secrets in a matter of two hours – it’s overwhelming. It’s also part of why I love it – the film covers such a vast range of emotions the same way we can so easily swap them as teenagers finding our way in life (just ask my seventeen year old brother), but it doesn’t get swamped by these. It still lends itself to our teenage truths, hopes and fears, and even as adults I think there is something to be learnt and taken away from the film. We cannot let our hearts die.

Though it was filmed before my time, I have never seen a teen movie since The Breakfast Club that matches its understanding, thought-provoking nature; except for maybe Mean Girls, which can also match it for sharp writing, interesting humour, and a ridiculous amount of memorable quotes. However, The Breakfast Club is also unique in that the majority of it it takes place in one room and is mostly dialogue driven – which makes it easy to see why people have tried adapting it to the stage. Even I did, in a small-scale adaptation of the film which I put on for my University’s Drama Festival in my second year.

It just goes to show that it may be 33 years since Brian wrote that letter, but teenagers never change, and The Breakfast Club always has something more to give. It is as touching, honest, raw and true now about its characters and their values as it always has been. It’s no wonder it’s a classic. Verdict: 10/10.