I’m a fan of Garrison Keillor and, what’s this? A New York Times (Sun., Mar. 16, 2008) book review of Against Happiness, In Praise of Melancholy, by Eric G. Wilson. The reviewer? Garrison Keillor. Given the subject of this blog, “Dr. Sward’s Cure for Melancholia,” I couldn’t help but read what Keillor had to say.
“…Wilson clarifies his opposition to anti-depressants later. He is not opposed to them in the case of severe depression, only in the case of mild to moderate depression. All right. Thanks for that. The distinction between melancholia (good) and depression (bad), Wilson writes, is simple: depression is passive, melancholia is turbulent. Defending depression of any sort on the ground that Beethoven suffered from it is awfully close to defending tuberculosis on the grounds that it sharpened John Keats’ vision or arguing that you shouldn’t clean up violent, drug-ridden neighborhoods because so many brilliant jazzmen came from there. And look at the long list of gin-soaked writers–practically the whole pantheon of the 20th century…
“To argue for melancholia as a force for creativity prompts the question, Why isn’t this a better book, since the author is so miserable. And a Minnesotan reading Wilson, a North Carolinan on the tonic effect of melancholy winter has to smile.”
In short, Against Happiness is “a good old-fashioned broadside against American optimism–the mass of men lead lives of shallow happiness, the superior man exults in his gloom.”
All I know, speaking personally, is that gloom begets gloom. And the title, “Woe Be Gone,” is more than clever. Lake Wobegon. It’s also a little prayer. This review reads like a charm, a charm against the gloom… O gloom, O melancholy, O Woe… Be Gone!