First published in The Guardian, 28 May, 2014.
Alain de Botton is a mix of philosopher and self-help guru. A clever, busy guy, he has written books like “How Proust Can Change Your Life”, “The Consolations of Philosophy” and ‘Status Anxiety”; made TV shows based on his books and is a founder of The School of Life, an institution which aims to “offer instruction on how to lead a fulfilled life”. I have been struck by the strength of anti Alain de Botton feeling a number of readers have expressed to me. If you’re pretty happy with your life I guess you might be liable to find someone telling you there’s a better way to lead it really annoying. I’m full of self-loathing so I’m not bothered.
However he has written a book called “Art As Therapy” which offers an alternative way of viewing art. Alternative ways of viewing art is exactly what I spend my time trying to think up, so the book was perfect grist for my comic mill. The painting in the cartoon, The Laughing Cavalier, is one of the most annoying paintings in the world. The guy is not laughing; his mouth isn’t even open! Unless he was an admired ventriloquist the title is completely misleading. Apparently he is not even a cavalier. A more fitting title would be “A Complete Hypocrite”. In my cartoon De Botton follows his own advice to the letter – so you can’t accuse him of that.