Daniel Klein’s fans have fallen in love with the warm, humorous, and thoughtful way he shows how philosophy resonates in everyday life. Readers of his popular books Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . . and Travels with Epicurus come for enlightenment and stay for the entertainment.
As a young college student studying philosophy, Klein filled a notebook with short quotes from the world’s greatest thinkers, hoping to find some guidance on how to live the best life he could. Now, from the vantage point of his eighth decade, Klein revisits the wisdom he relished in his youth with this collection of philosophical gems, adding new ones that strike a chord with him at the end of his life. From Epicurus to Emerson and Camus to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—whose words provided the title of this book—each pithy extract is annotated with Klein’s inimitable charm and insights. In these pages, our favorite jokester–philosopher tackles life’s biggest questions, leaving us chuckling and enlightened.
This novel is a venture into philosophical literature with the goal of finding out the meaning of life. Even though, by the end, the author admits that no one can in fact find a definite meaning for life.
The novel is well-written with an interesting structure; the author used to keep a notebook of his favourite philosophy quotes and now after a few decades, he reopens this notebook and contemplates the meaning behind each quote.
If you are not already a professional philosophy reader, if you are just coming across this type of reading like myself, you will get to know many philosophers and their philosophies. Some are interesting to hear, some are best left in the notebook in a locked chest.
The book is aimed at medium to advanced philosophy people however I am neither of these. In the glossary section at the end of the novel, it is stated that anyone who reads this novel is presumed to have majored in philosophy out of college. Hence, if you are like me, you will have a difficult time catching up unless you do some side reading on the schools of philosophy and some other terms and facts.
I was not sure of this when I first went into it as it goes into great detail and discussion of the quotes however, I found it very captivating as interesting with “Whereas Epicurus would have us rein in our desires and aspirations so that we can get the most pleasure out of what is right in front of us, Aristophanes urges us to actively manipulate what is in front of us in order to maximise our pleasure.” Paragraphs like this had me thinking about the real meaning of it and applying it to life in general.
On the downside, one of the major problems I faced, was getting some of the jokes the author makes, due to my lack of knowledge in philosophy.
In the end, I believe this book is a love affair with between the author and philosophy. One that collects a lot of good and worthy ideas and crams them into a reasonable length. I recommend this to people who have read a book or two on philosophy. For the rest of us, this novel should be taken with caution for parts of the novel that are difficult at times to comprehend. I definitely recommend this novel for an interesting view on life’s theories.