Help. It’s January – again – and what have we to show for it? Are we leaner, richer, calmer, wiser, as we so fervently intended? Perhaps only wiser.
Last year, we had really been trying to change – or, at least, we had been reading about trying. The book sales are there to prove it, buoyant by grace of the ballooning market for “self-improvement” works.
What seems to sell at the moment is the promise of calm. Four centuries ago, Pascal wrote that all man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. If he was right, there should be a great deal more discontent now weighing upon us, hyper-connected and overstimulated.
Our urgent desire for tranquillity must be behind last year’s publishing phenomenon. Amazon’s bestselling title of 2015, outstripping E L James and Harper Lee, was a colouring book for grown-ups: Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom had sold almost 500,000 copies by Christmas Day. Marotta rationalised its runaway success as “a much needed distraction from the ‘grown up’ world”; a novel way into Pascal’s quiet and solitary room.
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