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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

March 26, 1995|CHRIS GOODRICH

LIVING WITHOUT A GOAL: Finding the Freedom to Live a Creative and Innovative Life by James Ogilvy (Doubleday Currency: $22.95; 197 pp.). Lifestyle advice from Friedrich Nietzsche? Indeed: former philosophy professor James Ogilvy quotes him a number of times in this book, inspired in part by a passage from Nietzsche's "Will to Power": "It is only late that one musters the courage for what one really knows. . . . When one moves toward a goal it seems impossible that 'goallessness as such' is the principle of our faith." Ogilvy, now an international consultant based in the Bay Area, has written "Living Without a Goal" for a business-oriented publishing imprint, but it's hard to envision his intended audience: Skeptical readers would say it's philosophy-professors-turned-business-consultants following midlife crises.

The book, Ogilvy writes, is "about designing life artistically rather than engineering life mechanically," and that feels about right, although the idea's development isn't very effective. He devotes a chapter to Howard Hughes, telling the familiar tale of how Hughes' achievements--wealth, fame, the ability to control his world--didn't bring fulfillment. Ogilvy creates Lila and Spike, characters following, respectively, a "Grand Goal" and almost nihilistic goallessness, and describes how their behavior short-circuits any chance of lasting personal satisfaction. Ogilvy praises--surprisingly--sublimation ("an artful and creative boot-strapping operation that generates more from less") and a degree of narcissism ("The celebration of self becomes a song for the ears of the other, not for the sake of self-aggrandizement but for the benefit of shared acts of artful self-creation"), and touches on ideas from Freud, Marx, Ferdinand de Saussure, et alia and one often wonders how strongly these references are tied to the author's central theme. Bottom line: Newt Gingrich will probably invite the author to a well-catered weekend retreat, while others will speculate that Ogilvy has put business-as-usual wine in New Age bottles.

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