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The pleasures and sorrows of work [sound recording] / Alain de Botton ; read by Humphrey Bower.

By: De Botton, Alain.
Contributor(s): Bower, Humphrey.
Material type: materialTypeLabelSoundPublisher: Tullamarine, Vic. : Bolinda Audio, p2012Description: 5 sound discs (CD) (6hr., 4 min.) : digital, stereo ; 4 3/4 in. ; in container.ISBN: 9781742853666; 9781743100936.Subject(s): Talking books | Work -- PhilosophyDDC classification: 331.01 Read by Humphrey Bower.Summary: We spend most of our waking lives at work, in occupations often chosen by our unthinking sixteen year old selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what it might mean for us. Equally intrigued by work's pleasures and its pains, Alain de Botton heads into the office, the factory, the fishing fleet and the logistics centre, ears and eyes open to the beauty, interest and sheer strangeness of the modern workplace. Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet?
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Read by Humphrey Bower.

We spend most of our waking lives at work, in occupations often chosen by our unthinking sixteen year old selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what it might mean for us. Equally intrigued by work's pleasures and its pains, Alain de Botton heads into the office, the factory, the fishing fleet and the logistics centre, ears and eyes open to the beauty, interest and sheer strangeness of the modern workplace. Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet?

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

1. Imagine a journey across one of the great cities of the modern world. Take London on a particularly grey Monday at the end of October. Fly over its distribution centres, reservoirs, parks and mortuaries. Consider its criminals and South Korean tourists. See the sandwich-making plant at Park Royal, the airline contract-catering facility in Hounslow, the DHL delivery depot in Battersea, the Gulfstreams at City airport and the cleaning trolleys in the Holiday Inn Express on Smuggler's Way. Listen to the screaming in the refectory of Southwark Park primary school and the silenced guns at the Imperial War Museum. Think of driving instructors, meter readers and hesitant adulterers. Stand in the maternity ward of St Mary's Hospital. Watch Aashritha, three and a half months too early for existence, enmeshed in tubes, sleeping in a plastic box manufactured in the Swiss Canton of Obwalden. Look into the State Room on the west side of Buckingham Palace. Admire the Queen, having lunch with two hundred disabled athletes, then over coffee, making a speech in praise of determination. In Parliament, follow the government minister introducing a bill regulating the height of electrical sockets in public buildings. Consider the trustees of the National Gallery voting to acquire a painting by the eighteenth-century Italian artist Giovanni Panini. Scan the faces of the prospective Father Christmases being interviewed in the basement of Selfridges in Oxford Street and wonder at the diction of the Hungarian psychoanalyst delivering a lecture on paranoia and breastfeeding at the Freud Museum in Hampstead. Meanwhile, at the capital's eastern edges, another event is occuring which will leave no trace in the public mind or attract attention from anyone beyond its immediate participants, but which is no less worthy of record for that. The Goddess of the Sea is making her way to the Port of London from Asia. Built a decade earlier by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagasaki, she is 390 metres long, painted orange and grey and wears her name defi antly, for she makes little attempt to evoke any of the qualities of grace and beauty for which goddesses are traditionally famed, being instead squat and 80,000 tonnes in weight, with a stern that bulges like an overstuffed cushion and a hold stacked high with more than a thousand variously-coloured steel containers full of cargo, whose origins range from the factories of the Kobe corridor to the groves of the Atlas Mountains. This leviathan is headed not for the better-known bits of the river, where tourists buy ice-creams to the smell of diesel engines, but to a place where the waters are coloured a dirty brown and the banks are gnawed by jetties and warehouses -- an industrial zone which few of the capital's inhabitants penetrate, though the ordered running of their lives and, not least, their supplies of Tango fizzy orange and cement aggregate depend on its complex operations. Our ship reached the English Channel late the previous evening and followed the arc of the Kent coastline to a point a few miles north of Margate, where, at dawn, she began the fi nal phase of her journey up the lower Thames, a haunted-looking setting evocative both of the primeval past and of a dystopian future, a place where one half expects that a brontosaurus might emerge from behind the shell of a burnt-out car factory. The river's ostensibly generous width in fact offers but a single, narrow navigable channel. Used to having hundreds of metres of water to play with, the ship now advances gingerly, like a proud creature of the wild confi ned to a zoo enclosure, her sonar letting out a steady sequence of coy beeps. Up on the bridge, the Malaysian captain scans a nautical chart, which delineates every underwater ridge and bank from Canvey Island to Richmond, while the surrounding landscape, even where it is densest with monuments and civic buildings, looks like the 'terra incognita' marked on the charts of early explorers. On either side of the ship, the river swirls with plastic bottles, feathers, cork, sea-smoothed planks, felt-tip pens and faded toys. The Goddess docks at Tilbury container terminal at just after eleven. Given the trials she has undergone, she might have expected to be met by a minor dignitary or a choir singing 'Exultate, jubilate'. But there is a welcome only from a foreman, who hands a Filipino crew member a sheaf of customs forms and disappears without asking what dawn looked like over the Malacca Straits or whether there were porpoises off Sri Lanka. The ship's course alone is impressive. Three weeks earlier she set off from Yokohama and since then she has called in at Yokkaichi, Shenzhen, Mumbai, Istanbul, Casablanca and Rotterdam. Only days before, as a dull rain fell on the sheds of Tilbury, she began her ascent up the Red Sea under a relentless sun, circled by a family of storks from Djibouti. The steel cranes now moving over her hull break up a miscellaneous cargo of fan ovens, running shoes, calculators, fluorescent bulbs, cashew nuts and vividly coloured toy animals. Her boxes of Moroccan lemons will end up on the shelves of central London shops by evening. There will be new television sets in York at dawn. Not that many consumers care to dwell on where their fruit has come from, much less where their shirts have been made or who fashioned the rings which connect their shower hose to the basin. The origins and travels of our purchases remain matters of indifference, although -- to the more imaginative at least -- a slight dampness at the bottom of a carton, or an obscure code printed along a computer cable, may hint at processes of manufacture and transport nobler and more mysterious, more worthy of wonder and study, than the very goods themselves. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

This exploration of how and why we labor arrives at a poignant time, as global economic turmoil cuts off countless workers from their livelihoods-and the meaning work gives them. Essayist and novelist de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) spends time with workers in England as well as the United States, including fishermen, rocket scientists, accountants, a landscape painter, and a career counselor, in pursuit of some fundamental truth about work. His conclusion is, perhaps unavoidably, elusive; he variously seems to praise commitment to a task and to deride it, to glorify and to condemn modern industry. De Botton filters his subjects' experiences through his own; though he is a witty, engaging interlocutor, his dominant voice distances the reader from those he aims to portray. Photographer Richard Baker contributes visual images of workers and workplaces, including a photo-essay documenting the process by which a tuna in the Indian Ocean becomes dinner for an English child. Providing provocative insights on specialization and the transitory nature of significance, this is sophisticated reading on a timely subject. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/09.]-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Worthington Libs., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Veteran narrator David Colacci delivers an evenhanded, workmanlike performance of De Botton's philosophical exploration of the joys, pains and meaning of work. The erudite and frequently amusing meditation on vocation is accompanied by profiles of a broad spectrum of workers-employed in everything from biscuit manufacturing to rocket science, fishing to career counseling-with Colacci deftly capturing the text's perfect mix of sly humor and gravity and allowing listeners an opportunity to reflect on and question his or her own working life. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 13). (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Beginning with a quote from Walt Whitman's "A Song for Occupations," this volume sings the praises of human work, aided by photographs by Richard Baker of various aspects of occupations. The author was inspired by the men at the pier to "attempt a hymn to the intelligence, peculiarity, beauty and horror of the modern workplace and ... provide us, alongside love, with the principal source of life's meaning." Chapters follow on verbal and photographic images of logistics, biscuit manufacture, career counseling, rocket science, painting and the equipment required for contemporary painting and the approach of the artist to practice what the author calls a "secular icon," transmission engineering, accountancy, entrepreneurship, and the "semi-ruined objects" of aviation. In all, de Botton's focus on work forces readers, as he writes, to focus on their own significance at work or the simultaneous triviality of what they do to seek both perfection and mastery in their efforts. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. L. Braude emeritus, SUNY Fredonia

Booklist Review

De Botton is the author of eight previous books, mostly philosophical essays covering ideas such as love, friendship, architecture, and self-worth, often using the analysis of other thinkers as a guide. Here he travels the globe to examine occupations of the unusual and mundane variety in search of the elusive qualities that cause work to range from delightful to dreadful. Some of the touchstones for this meditation on work include a London biscuit factory, a satellite rocket launch in French Guiana, and a meeting with the Maldives minister of fish while tracing the path of a tuna from net to dinner table. Visits with a painter, accountants, career counselors, and entrepreneurs all help to shed light on the intelligence, peculiarity, beauty, and horror of the modern workplace, and, not least, its extraordinary claim to be able to provide us, alongside love, with the principle source of life's meaning. De Botton's essays reveal the fragile dependencies and interconnectedness that make every one of us a key component of the human network.--Siegfried, David Copyright 2009 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

Novelist/essayist de Botton (The Architecture of Happiness, 2006, etc.) turns his inquisitive eye to the business of work. For many of us, writes the author, the "unreasonable banality" of work requires "daily submission at the altars of prudence and order," typically housed in drab, soulless workplaces. (The many photographs are striking proof.) From the beginning of his latest philosophical excursion, however, de Botton appreciates that work is a meaningful act, if only in the most elemental senseworkers need to put food on the table. Still, the author found a certain heroic beauty in many of the work environments he visited, including that of an aircraft salesman, a biscuit manufacturer, an electricity-transmission engineer, a career counselor, a painter and an accountant. In each instance, he unhurriedly poked into the workings of the job, examined the possibilities for gleaning pleasure from it and embraced the Protestant worldview that "humility, wisdom, respect, and kindness could be practiced in a shop no less sincerely than in a monastery"no matter how clownish-looking the activity, especially in an economy increasingly based on satisfying peripheral desires. There is something to be said about the delight generated by an artist's creations, or the happy, heedless energy of entrepreneurs, who require "a painfully uncommon synthesis of imagination and realism." Work may be trivial, de Botton notes, but what's interesting is the determination and gravity we bring to it. A luminous photo-essay from a consistently fresh and noble writer. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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