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Happy, but after reading Against Happiness, I felt a lot better about myself.

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It almost made me happy. An important book and a stunning reminder, in these troubled times, that there are important lessons in our pain and that a smile may make a better moment, but not a better world.

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Dare to be against mere contentment and you can end up embracing ecstasy. Almost every American claims to be happy, and yet we are a nation increasingly benumbed by drugs, opiated by messianic religion and buffed smooth by surgery, as we chase the illusions of perpetual youth, of life without death and joy without pain.

This movingly written book may help us stand up before it's too late and face our demons, by learning to love the melancholy realism and the creative powers that arise out of the darkness in our hearts. An important book and a stunning reminder, in these troubled times, that there are impo. An impassioned, compelling, dare I say poetic, argument on behalf of those who labor in the fields of sadness'. Wilson's argument is important, and he makes it with passion. I have never been Mr. A lucid, literate defense of feeling like hell--and, in fact, of feeling itself.


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With his merry diatribe and his spiritual wisdom, Eric Wilson brings us to our senses and gives us a book that "really" helps. This book will change your mind, and maybe your life, with its pitiless account of the value of happiness and the price we Americans pay for pursuing it so compulsively.

Eric G. Wilson

One would almost say that, in its eloquent contrarianism and earnest search for meaning, Against Happiness lifts the spirits. If you think the world is being overrun by zombie Pollyannas intent on spreading their insidious joy, Against Happiness will gladden your heart. Eric G. Wilson is Thomas H.

He is the author of five books on the relationship between literature and psychology.

On Feeling Melancholy

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What most people take for contentment, Wilson argues, is living death, and what the majority sees as depressive is a vital force that inspires creativity, spurs ambition, and helps people form more intimate bonds with one another. It's time to throw off the shackles of positivity and relish the blues that make us human. Wilson's basic thesis is that, without suffering, the human soul becomes stagnant and empty.

We must live between the poles of sadness and joy and not try to expunge misery from our lives. Wilson makes a strong case.


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Although invented by 19th-century Britons, notably Jeremy Bentham and J. Mill, utilitarianism has some claim to be the official philosophy of the U. We must therefore seize the former and avoid the latter. Wilson, a professor of English at Wake Forest University, disagrees, contending that utilitarianism has it the wrong way around.

The 'happy types,' as he calls them, are apt to be bland, superficial, static, hollow, one-sided, bovine, acquisitive, deluded and foolish. Sold on the ideal of the happy smile and the cheerful salutation, they patrol the malls in dull uniformity, zombie-like, searching for contentment and pleasure, locked inside their own dreams of a secure and unblemished world, oblivious to objective reality, cocooned in a protective layer of bemused well-being. We can only reach our full potential through pain—not a pathological kind of pain but the kind that comes from a recognition of death, decay and the bad day or decade.

Wilson makes a strong case for this anti-utilitarianism, in prose both spare and lavish. Of Coleridge he writes: 'He was hurt into these sublimities.

Against Happiness | Eric G. Wilson | Macmillan

He was axed into ecstasy. But who says we're supposed to be happy? Where does it say that in the Bible, or in the Constitution? In Against Happiness , the scholar Eric G.


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  6. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let's embrace our depressive sides as the wellspring of creativity.