All posts tagged: one thing

The Spiky, Unsentimental Visions of Diana Athill

The Spiky, Unsentimental Visions of Diana Athill

[ad_1] One of American fiction’s core preoccupations, these days, seems to be the question of what causes unhappiness. Many of our major writers are earnest anatomists of discontent and its social, psychological, and existential causes. This kind of fiction can be very powerful. Reading about loneliness when you’re lonely can provide both diagnosis and solace; encountering a character trapped by student debt or patriarchal expectation can inspire a sense of camaraderie in a reader facing similar frustrations. But more often than not, contemporary novelists handle their subject matter with immersive seriousness and sincerity—and sincerity, after a while, gets tiring. Misery may love company, but sometimes a miserable person wants cheering up too. If you’re looking to make a little light of sadness, as I have been, the work of Diana Athill might be the perfect place to turn. The legendary writer and editor is one of a loose cadre of 20th-century English and Irish women authors gaining resurgent attention for their brilliantly drawn characters and sharply witty prose; others in this camp include Penelope Fitzgerald, …

Three Myths and Four Truths About How to Get Happier

Three Myths and Four Truths About How to Get Happier

[ad_1] Want to stay current with Arthur’s writing? Sign up to get an email every time a new column comes out. I have heard this statement from thousands of people in my career of teaching and researching happiness. I have said it myself many times; you probably have too. As the philosopher and theologian Saint Augustine declared in 426 C.E., feeling no need to offer proof, “There is no one who does not wish to be happy.” But what do we actually mean when we say we just want to be happy? Usually, that we want to achieve and keep certain feelings—of joy or simple cheerfulness—but that some obstacle prevents this. “I just want to be happy” is almost always followed by naming a source of unhappiness, such as money problems, relationship problems, health problems—or real tragedies. (As I write these words, the Maui wildfires have killed dozens, displaced thousands, and caused suffering that has affected us all.) From small problems to major catastrophes, life seems to conspire to make our wished-for happiness fleeting at …