Napkin NotesReview - Napkin Notes
On the Art of Living
by Michael Durst, Ph.D.
Training Systems, 1988
Review by Margo McPhillips
Jan 9th 2000 (Volume 4, Issue 2)

I use this book as one of my reference books on Life, rereading it periodically to remind myself of its points. It's wise, funny, comforting and makes one intensely angry and prone to argue against what it has to say… out loud.

The basic premise of the book is that we're responsible for everything that happens to us. Step off a curb and get hit by a truck? We're responsible. People push our buttons? Whose buttons are they? Ours. We're responsible.

The part I used to argue with (I've read the book so many times I "get it" now so have ceased arguing with it) was the simplicity of Durst's arguments. He compares us to giant tubes and Wurlitzer machines and shows how we often choose to be actors in the cheaper, more melodramatic shows of Life. It's not a flattering picture.

One tries to argue because Durst doesn't let anyone off the hook. The beauty of the book is that everyone is included and the reader either "gets it" or gets angry. There's no opting out, saying, "It doesn’t apply to me; I'm different". One only says that because the book has gotten under their skin and made them angry and when that happens, the reader doesn't feel so good about being angry and starts the arguing which ends, a couple times in my case, with throwing the book across the room. It's a very real book written so well the reader can't remain unaffected by it.

I like the book because it accepts no excuses and clearly explains why they're unacceptable. When one is tired of one's self and not getting anything done, it's a refreshing, energizing book, but refreshing like a cold shower is. It reads quickly but must be read from beginning to end, as it's really a tale. One can not like it and decide not to accept what it has to say but it will eat at one's thoughts long after it's put aside. Don't read this book unless you truly want to change your life.

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