From Publishers Weekly
Some books are easy companions, and this essay collection, in which Spiegelman speaks affectionately of them, can join their ranks. His top seven picks for happiness are reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing—activities that are free and accessible to anyone with a library card and a pair of comfortable shoes. As old-fashioned, and occasionally charming, as a Lawrence Welk waltz, Spiegelman proclaims his suspicion of new technology that might replace the book and regrets dancing that doesn't involve a partner and a prescribed step. To today's sufferers, melancholics, and ordinary neurotics, can we safely say, 'Throw out your Prozac, pick up your Wordsworth?' The advice would revolutionize the health industry. Spiegelman, editor of the Southwest Review
and professor of English at Southern Methodist University, is no self-help guru, but he is an intelligent, well-read and kindly soul. Back in the good old days, he found a set of activities that made him happy, and knows he's not the first to write on these subjects. But can a happiness-obsessed society accept that the simple act of looking at one painting all afternoon can make all the difference? (May)
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*Starred Review* 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. --June Sawyers