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Paul Sonnino

The Search for the Man in the Iron Mask

Rowman & Littlefield

The Search for the Man in the Iron Mask is a book French history buffs will love. Considering how many novels, plays and movies there are about Old Metal Face, there’s a bunch of us. Sonnino’s tone is sometimes humorous, but he’s serious about learning the identity of the legendary prisoner. The received story (immortalized by Dumas) is that King Louis XIV had a twin brother. Louis had him locked up for life, his inconvenient face concealed by an iron mask (black velvet in some versions). Great tale, says Sonnino, but untrue. The real story he uncovers is equally intriguing, and still scary.

– Bruce Collier

Sarah Knight

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do 

Little, Brown and Company

Once upon a time Marie Kondo, Japanese master organizer, wrote a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Everyone on the planet proceeded to buy the book, change their lives and preach the good word of the KonMari method. This is the author’s system of decluttering, a system that Kondo claims will completely alter the way you feel not just about your things but your entire life.

 

This promptly started some sort of world decluttering revolution and, as you can imagine with an international bestseller, there was some pushback. Hence, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, subtitled “A Practical Parody.” And while it is a profanity-strewn send-up, there is, indeed, a good bit of practical advice that arcs into Kondo’s work.

 

Knight proposes that each person needs to establish a “F*ck Budget” and then outlines a matrix for how to determine whether there are things, events, people and situations in your life worthy of your F*cks. She parallels Kondo’s system in describing hers.

 

While the author admits later in the book she is the opposite of altruistic in her motivation, she purports that giving less F*cks will make not only you personally happy but in turn make others happy because in freeing up your F*cks you will have more time and care to devote to the things, events and people that you truly care about.

 

The book is witty, no doubt, but I will caution you that it is a parody no matter how much sense it makes. At times the advice is pretty sound (for example, mastering the core tricks of honesty and politeness in rebuffing people, things and events you don’t give a F*ck about). As tempting as it is to actually use the parody to reorganize your mind and the things you give permission to concern yourself with, there is a fatal flaw in the book’s entire premise.

 

Repeatedly Knight tries to demonstrate “how not to be a**hole.” And repeatedly, in the facetious examples (at least, I hope they are facetious), she fails. If anyone I knew pulled some of the behavior in the real-life examples she describes, that person would be put squarely in the “a**hole” category.

 

It’s tempting to jettison nearly all things in your life that drain your time and energy (or money). In many cases, it’s healthy to do so—but judiciously. Knight’s guidelines ring with a sort of humble-brag false cheer that are as humorous as they are hollow.

 

If everyone cleaned out their mental F*ck Budget with a red pen line item by line item as ruthlessly as Knight, we’d all be hosting our own birthday parties alone and having our weddings alone.

 

Sometimes, it’s worth giving a F*ck.

– Lesha Maureen Porche
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