I first discovered Alain de Botton in the film 500 Days of Summer. There’s a scene in the movie where the protagonist is riding a train a while after his romantic entanglement comes to an end. As he reads de Botton’s book, The Architecture of Happiness, he happens to run into the woman, that friendly black mark on his heart, which leads to the final stage of their relationship.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking for when I read The Architecture of Happiness, but it wasn’t what I got. It wasn’t so much about identifying good architecture as it was about what good architecture does to a thinking human being. It was a pleasant surprise, though I couldn’t really locate its relevance to the movie, other than the fact that it was about some kind of adoration.
I’m starting to think that the filmmakers were being more subtle than I gave them credit for. On Love is the perfect companion book to 500 Days of Summer. It charts the course of a romantic relationship from beginning to end. What makes it interesting, and what made the movie interesting, was that it was about love, but was far from being a love story.
The author looks at things in a way I wish I was able to. He, for example, expounds upon just what stocking a lover’s favorite cereal in your apartment really means, why a toothbrush is sometimes just a toothbrush, and how infidelity can result in a guilty victim. Right about now, you should be nodding. You know this already. But if you’re like me, you never really took the time to articulate it.
Exposed, these facets of romantic life seem so obvious and clear, but that’s only when they’re divorced from the feelings that cause them. Do not read this book if you are busy falling in love or are having a hard time after a particularly bad fall from it. You’ll call de Botton a cynic and an asshole. But if you’re comfortably involved or comfortably unattached, just so long as you’re comfortable, you’ll find all kinds of insight in these pages.