Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I'm currently reading the book Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness by Willard Spiegelman, which was released on May 6, 2009 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Here is a review of Seven Pleasures by June Sawyers that appeared in the April 15, 2009 issue of Booklist.
In this luminous, compelling book, Spiegelman comments on seven activities that can bring us ordinary happiness - reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing - injecting biographical elements into the universal messages he imparts. First, though, he tries to define, or at least capture the essence of, happiness.
"Happiness," he observes, "has received less respect and less serious attention than melancholy." He notes the American propensity to see happiness as a right and contrasts it with the gloominess of the European mindset.
With the exception of dancing, every activity he writes about involves solitude. In the reading chapter, he refers to his generation as "the last children born before the ubiquity of television"; if watching TV's early, fuzzy images was unpleasant, reading was fun. In the walking chapter, he flees Dallas, his hometown, for London, a city in which walking is normal, not a chore or something to be avoided (Dallas and much of modern America, apart from the older cities of the East and Midwest, are simply too big and, in the case of Dallas, too hot to walk in comfortably).
Writing in a leisurely manner, Spiegelman takes time to make his points and, whatever activity he's engaged in at the moment, to be a thoughtful, genial companion.