Types of Enjoyment
In Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism Alfie Bown tackles an important subject with the appropriate modicum of levity. When discussing enjoyment, its different forms, and the potentially dangerous value-judgments we levy against certain types, he retains a fairness, recognizing in himself a product of modern forms of simple pleasure-seeking as anyone else.
Bown splits enjoyment into two categories: productive and unproductive, with productive being anything that promotes cultural and social structures and unproductive being something labelled mindless (such as one more game of Angry Birds). In the author’s words: “We must dispel the idea that it is necessarily preferable or doing any more good for anyone when the author of this book enjoys writing this introduction than when he enjoys a six-hour stint on Football Manager.” He makes the perhaps radical point that the cultural capital surrounding whether I enjoy Wittgenstein or the fresh tabloids shows a disproportionate gap.
Crisp and Challenging
With the crispness of a welcome fall day amidst paltry winter, Bown navigates the high and low brow forms of enjoyment with tact and an openness to challenging our preconceived notions of what we should enjoy or what enjoying a certain thing says about us. Including case studies on the artist responsible for “Gangnam Style”, Candy Crush, Football Manager, and the books of philosophy written about Game of Thrones, he makes the case that even those constructs we think of as banal might be more transformative than first perceived.
During a brief section of the book where he deftly weaves Zizek into the landscape, Bown says “It needs to be stressed that the point is not so much that society tells us what to enjoy (though it does), but that it tells us to enjoy per se.”
The book’s shortness acts as a springboard to discussion. It’s the sort of book that begs you to share it with friends in order to promote healthier watercooler gabble around what we enjoy, why we enjoy it, and whether or not reading literary criticism is above playing candy crush over lunch break. As any solid book that begs critical thinking should, it leaves me wanting more, not wanting the conversation to end. For that, and multiple other reasons, Bown has produced a sparkling book, something worth engaging between moments spent watching Cutthroat Kitchen.