Mari Ruti was educated at Brown University and Harvard University and is professor of critical theory at the University of Toronto. She contends that the glut of self-help books are dumbing down the complexity of human existence. Equally disconcerting is the widespread quest for "a balanced, composed and unruffled life." People are drained of energy as they seek these unrealistic goals and many succumb to depression. In short, Ruti has her own ideal of the good life which is presented in sections on 1) The Art of Self-Fashioning, 2) The Art of Self-Responsibility, and 3) The Art of Self-Surrender.

The author is right in her reference to the deadness of soul of so many young adults. They do not feel fully alive and are not driven by desire which Ruti calls "the motor of human life." Another aspect of this malaise is being frightened of our own passion. The antidote to fear, helplessness, and being stuck is heeding the call of character.

Ruti sees the world as a source of both wonder and frustration. She suggests we shed earlier incarnations of the self and release our own idiosyncratic spirit. Each day is a chance to embrace "the erotics of being." Here there is no perfection, no serenity or balanced life, only a respect for the mystery of being and the authentic expression of who we are.