Becca Rothfeld at The Hedgehog Review:
In Iris, the literary critic John Bayley’s tragic account of his brilliant wife, the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, and her descent into the fog of Alzheimer’s, he quotes clergyman Sydney Smith’s advice to a depressive: “Take short views of the human life—never further than dinner or tea.”5 Depression, too, is a form of waiting, for deliverance or vindication or a sudden onslaught of meaning that fails, devastatingly, to arrive. Waiting is a manipulation of time—it is “enchantment,” as Barthes writes, a spell that stills and silences its victims—and its antidote is to make time pass at the usual rate once again. (In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham’s abandonment and subsequent waiting arrest time completely: She stops the clocks at 8:40, the moment at which she received the letter breaking off her engagement.)
Smith exhorts the depressive to throw herself entirely into some proximate thing, to repopulate the vast stretches of undifferentiated blankness with something like events. One tries to foist sequences back onto a slop of time that has come to consist in the recurring, harping note of absence. So one lives, one tries to inhabit the minutiae of the activities one performs, one tries to externalize oneself and ultimately to lose one’s sense of one’s selfhood altogether, so that one can become the objects one rearranges on the dresser and forget that one is waiting, that none of one’s activities are complete without some additional element that is wretchedly, unforgettably elsewhere.