Friday, January 22, 2010

Prozac on Every Page: "I Need Happy Books!"

It’s a rough world out there. Read enough about it and reach for an anti-depressant. As often as not, readers head for the books to take them out of this world into another, if only for a little while.

What happens when even books suck you into the muck of human existence? Is there no escape?

“Hi. I have been reading about a book every other week for the last couple of years and it seems that most of the books I end up reading are sad and make me more cynical about the world, such as books by Kafka, Orwell, Dostoyevsky, Huxley... I need their opposite! Books that make me feel happy like humans are not the piece of s**t that I think we are.

“So please propose a few and tell me why they made you happy without giving the ending to the story.”

To the rescue, the number one response to this person’s entreaty is Bunnicuca.

“I liked Bunnicula because there was a dog and he was funny and also because of Bunnicula.”

“I haven't the foggiest idea about what this book is, but I'm going to go ahead and guess: A vampire rabbit, possibly with a funny dog.”

“Yes, and the bunny likes zucchini.”

Yes, it’s true. Bunnicula likes zucchini. While singing Funiculi Funicula.

Those who, up until this point in human history, have been unaware of the undead hare from hell should know that:

“Bunnicula is a children's book series written by James Howe (and his late wife Deborah in the case of "Bunnicula") about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. It is also the name of the first book in the series, published 1979.

“The story is centered on the Monroe family and their pets and is told from the perspective of their dog Harold. The Monroes find a bunny at the theater where they were watching a Dracula film. Because of this, they name him Bunnicula. Their cat Chester, however, is convinced Bunnicula is a vampire and attempts to get Harold to help save the Monroes from the perceived menace.” (Wikipedia).

I have no problem with children reading children’s books. I have no issue with those who prefer to read only books that make them feel good, though I wish those so inclined might be a little more open to a broader book shelf; a steady diet of happy can lead to cerebral constipation and the unbearable lightness of being. Are we happy yet?

Orwell, Huxley, Kafka, & Company (“Purveying the gloom that enlightens since way before you were born”), are, true, not the sunshine squad. They can, if not read with perspective, drive you to seek solace by any means necessary.

One very sharp respondent to this reader’s suicidal note, however, prescribed a perfect antidote:

“You'll be thoroughly entertained by A Confederacy Of Dunces.

Yes! Ignatius J. Reilly, the 30-year old highly educated unemployed sloth living with his mother; the Don Quixote-like hero of John Kennedy Toole’s posthumously published, Pulitzer Prize-winning (1981) novel, who farts his way into the hearts of readers, each expression of flatulence a sword of ill-wind tilting at modern-world windmills and pop-culture values.

You may feel happy at the end as long as you don’t dwell too much on the social satire. Western culture is sliding into the sewers, friends, and one must resist it, as Ignatius literally does, on a fundamental level.

Perhaps a read of Ignatius’ favorite book will help: Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy (c. 524 CE), one of the great works of prison literature, about how to achieve and maintain happiness. It won’t make you happy but jeez, give happy a break. It’s under a lot of strain these days. Forget about it.

In a happiness crisis? All dressed up but no book to read? Forget kid lit. Some nice, grown-up literary comedies will help.

Or, perhaps, rose-colored reading glasses.


Thanks to Reddit for the lead.

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