Misanthrope's Guide To Life by Meghan Rowland & Chris Turner-Neal

MISANTHROPE’S GUIDE TO LIFE (Go Away!) by Meghan Rowland & Chris Turner-Neal

Adams Media, 2011 Rebecca Colbeck “Lord, grant me the irritability to deal with those people I cannot avoid, the flight-reflex to avoid those people I can, and the patience to get it all over with quickly” “Hell is other people” I’ll admit it, I lean towards misanthropy. Shopping, for example, always finds me grumbling, mostly under my breath, at the idiots who park their carts in the middle of the aisle then stand there for ten minutes deciding between store brand and national brand eggs. Really? And don’t get me started on the exact-change types at the “express” lane. This book aims to give fellow misanthropes a how-to guide on how to cope with a genetically hardcoded disdain for others – in a sarcastic way.

It reads like an excerpt out of a Louie C.K. memoir, full of cynical, insightful commentary on what is commonly misconstrued as anti-social behaviour. What makes this book so enjoyably funny? It takes fairly normal situations and exaggerates them, then gives advice on how to deal with them, again in an exaggerated manner. An example: inappropriate cell phone conversations in public. “Tap the person on the shoulder, apologize for interrupting, and explain that there’s a marvellous new fad called blogging that allows a**holes who want to share their “thoughts” with the world to do so, but in silence. Offer to help her come up with a catchy URL address and point out that social media is the key to any blog’s success, so if you were her, you’d reserve @PhoneC**t as soon as possible”.

The running theme of the book is essentially how to feign interest in people. Neal and Rowland touch on awkward social situations like “How to End a Conversation with That Guy” and focus on advanced defence mechanisms for how to avoid uncomfortable scenarios with strangers, colleagues or family. The authors argue that even though misanthropes are commonly accused of being “anti-social” members of society, they are in fact superior at grasping situational ethics whereas “normal people” cannot. Neal and Rowland address everyday contradictions for misanthropes like how to engage socially as well as deal with having and maintaining friends when you’d clearly prefer solitary confinement. After reading this book, I realized that the situations described within that drive most misanthropes crazy don’t really bother me. Of course, they are exaggerated for comic effect in this book. I’m fairly certain that no one but the most extreme misanthrope would smoke cigarettes in front of a class of children just to get out of being the homeroom mom.

I also found a few quotable gems that are worth mentioning. The first is “Irony is the whip of a sarcastic God.” A sarcastic God is a god that I might actually get behind. There’s also this from the section on using Wikipedia to avoid talking to people to get information: “A pound of avoidance is worth an ounce of inaccuracy.” I can get behind that! After reading this book, I’ve come to realize that I am a very specific type of misanthrope (yes, there’s a test!): I am occasionally a Stealth Misanthrope. “Heavily socialized, but a people-hater nonetheless, I put the “Ass” in passive-aggressive. Always willing to grin and bear it, I appear likeable, but may eventually frighten people off with the pulsing vein in my forehead. “ I’ll end with a quote from somewhere near the middle of the book in the travel section: “If you take one thing away from this book, let it be this: Misanthropes hate doing something if there’s no apparent reason for it.” This pretty well sums up the philosophy of the book. If you feel the same, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did. “A Misanthrope’s Guide to Life (Go Away) is available in fine bookstores everywhere including your U of L Bookstore.