Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reading for Pleasure

In the quest for life's meaning and the path to happiness, fame and success are apparently not the answer; the actor James Gandolfini who recently died of a heart attack at age 51 proved that anew. He had everything in terms of material goods, received awards and accolades for his extreme talent, but still was addicted to food, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and allegedly heroin. And now that he's gone, we can't even ask him why.

The best-seller, Stumbling On Happiness, has been my husband's bedside book for the last last few months; he reads just a couple of pages each night before falling asleep. Now he's finally finished it and seems no happier. I asked him what he learned and he said the following: "Don't trust your memories or your conjecture about the future. Your imagination can be wrong. The brain stores shreds of memories and fills in the blanks with inaccurate information." Bottom line: Great title, but yet the book doesn't quite deliver the goods.

Usually reading is fun, but right now I am in the final stages of an old novel called The Bell Jar, wherein the author considers how to commit suicide every which way. It's bleak, I tell you, but yet I still like reading it because it makes me see that although I have been deeply unhappy at times in my life, I have never been anywhere near the deep unhappiness of Sylvia Plath. Absolutely nothing made her happy, including her own wild success as a writer, her marriage to a very successful poet, and her two perfect children born with all their body parts in working order, a miracle we commonly take for granted. So she stuck her head in the oven, an ungraceful exit if you ask me.

Even though her book is bumming me out, I still like reading it. But after this, to clear my brain palate, I'm going back to a sure-fire favorite, Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. That's always a good time.


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