For months I’ve seen this plastered all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you fucking name it. You know what I’m talking about: the blaring neon orange book that’s so bright it slaps you across the face like an idiot. The book with bold black text saying, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. I’ve seen this thing on Instagram, posed elegantly on a coffee table next to nice cuppa, or carefully placed on freshly rolled beach towels with the caption ‘beach ready! — insert emoji of choice’. Recently it’s made the Dymocks top 100 books and sits on the shelf of every book store under the heading Best Sellers. It stands amongst classic fiction and Harry Potter; it’s neon orange cover beckoning to be looked at. It’s inviting yet unusually plain. It captures the eye of the seller like a tractor beam you can’t pull away from. The word FUCK on the front cover seals the deal on the sale, as if you’re buying some literary porn in broad daylight. Naughty naughty. “A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life”, the subheading of the book reads; a self-help book sits in the top 100 books as voted by readers. Are we that depraved in our existence that a self-help book sits amongst some of the great modern and classic fiction?
I’ll admit, I bought the book. The neon orange slapped me hard in the face one day and I opened to the first page to see what this was all about. The first two words read ‘Charles Bukowski’. Hmm, this looks interesting, the author has just mentioned one of my favourite authors. Maybe this guy, Mark Manson, is inspired by Bukowski as well. I was feeling promiscuous the day I bought this book, it was just after pay day and I was feeling like Leo in Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I bought two other books at Dymocks that day: Assassin’s Apprentice and Sapiens. It was a two for one deal and I picked up The Subtle Art on a limb, it was not on the top 100 shelf that day. I know all this because the receipt is snuggled nicely in between the last page of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2. This tells me two things: one, I stopped reading after the first chapter, and two, I paid thirty-fucking-dollars for this book. Thirty dollars for a two-hundred-page book. Mark Manson is laughing in his duck feather pillows and Egyptian cotton bed sheets as he looks over at the beautiful view from his high-rise New York apartment. The date of the receipt says I bought these three books on the 17th of April 2017. Nearly a year ago to this day, and yes, I bought this book before it was popular. I also stopped reading it once I realised the book wasn’t so much about Bukowski but was giving me a long winded, two-hundred-page tip on how to stop giving a fuck.
Spoiler alert, the book tells you in one way or another how to stop giving a fuck. Do you really need to pay $30 to learn how to stop giving a fuck about things in your life? Are we all so ridden with anxiety that we need this book to tell us to slow down a bit with our lives, maybe stop caring about what people think of you, and to stop giving your online life more of an upkeep than your physical life? Yes, I know people suffer from anxiety, but are they the ones using this book as an accessory in their photos? Maybe, who knows? I don’t understand the world. But this book is about to replace Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey as the most seen book in Instagram photos.
The names of the chapters and subheadings in The Subtle Art aren’t encouraging, and I guess that’s the point of the book. As I flick through I see ‘You Are Not Special’ and ‘The Value of Suffering’ and ‘The Sunny Side of Death’ as if this is a paint by numbers guide for masochists. If these chapters seem alluring to you, then why don’t you invest in something that might be of more value than this neon orange marker that’ll sit on your bookshelf once you’ve finished. Like, I don’t know, some leather face masks, handcuffs, a paddle and a whip?
But if you’re looking at this book and thinking, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t mind giving that a go’ or ‘I really need to stop giving a fuck about things’ then go ahead and do it. Why pay money to learn how to do one of the easiest things in the world? Or if you really want to pay money, buy mine off me. Please, it’s eating up space on my bookshelf. Name your price. And if I don’t get any sales, then join me later for the ritual sacrifice in my sex dungeon where I’ll be burning this book. BYO handcuffs and paddles, for cleanliness sake.