Woe Be Gone

Garrison Keillor in The New York Times:

AGAINST HAPPINESS: In Praise of Melancholy.

By Eric G. Wilson.

Keillor600 It’s a good old-fashioned broadside against American optimism — the mass of men lead lives of shallow happiness, the superior man exults in his gloom.

The author is a gloomy man who tried jogging, yoga, tai chi, Frank Capra movies, smiling, good grooming and eating salads, and finally decided to embrace his gloominess. This makes him an odd duck in America, a land of “crazed and compulsive hopefulness,” settled by seekers of utopia, a Promised Land that quickly became a shopping mall where “the typical American, the American bent on discovering happiness through securing stuff,” consumes Paxil and Prozac, Ambien and Botox, while seeking the instant gratification of the cellphone, the BlackBerry, the Internet, smiley faces, churches that are “happiness companies,” hugging and yearning for “up with no down.”

It’s only right that the tide of inspirational books should yield to the occasional depressional one — for every humorist, a dishumorist, a man who runs his nails down the blackboard and makes everyone’s hair stand up, though we humorists would note that you have to work hard to get a laugh and that dishumor is tyrannical: you need only say out loud, “How can you people stand around here and enjoy yourselves while the world is falling apart?” and all conversation ends.

More here.