Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy

In 1621 Robert Burton published The Anatomy of Melancholy, and now, nearly 400 years later, Eric Wilson has given us what amounts to an apology for melancholy. Aristotle and other intellectual immortals have observed that a disproportionate number of geniuses suffer from the inexplicable sadness that is melancholy. Like those thinkers, Wilson maintains that those of us who live in shadows share a visceral understanding of the fact that existence is a dizzying admixture of the unmixable: joy and suffering, life and death. In Wilson’s reckoning, people affected by the blues ought to be commended for their ability to hold on to painful but fundamental truths.

 

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