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Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness

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Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness Cover

ISBN13: 9780312429676
ISBN10: 0312429673
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

What does it mean to be happy? Americans have had an obsession with “the pursuit of happiness” ever since the Founding Fathers enshrined it — along with life and liberty — as our national birthright. Whether it means the accumulation of wealth or a more vaguely understood notion of self-fulfillment or self-actualization, happiness has been an inevitable, though elusive, goal.

But it is hard to separate “real” happiness from the banal self-help version that embraces mindless positive thinking. And though we have two booming “happiness industries” — religion, with its promise of salvation, and psychopharmacology, with its promise of better living through chemistry — each comes with its own problems and complications.

In Seven Pleasures, Willard Spiegelman takes a look at the possibilities for achieving ordinary secular happiness without recourse to either religion or drugs. In this erudite and frequently hilarious book of essays, he discusses seven activities that lead naturally and easily to a sense of well-being. One of these — dancing — requires a partner, and therefore provides a lesson in civility, or good citizenship, as one of its benefits. The other six — reading, walking, looking, listening, swimming, and writing — are things one performs alone. Seven Pleasures is a marvelously engaging guide to the pursuit of happiness, and all its accompanying delights.

Review:

“Both a simple & complex pleasure, slow & swift at once, a graceful meditation. [The] impulse to share his enjoyment has resulted in Seven Pleasures, an appropriately entertaining and provocative book. Scholar, editor and teacher, Spiegelman is writing here — as a ‘loving amateur — about happiness and ‘the pleasurable things you can do to promote it and to increase a sense of general well-being, of what is called sanguinity.” Floyd Skloot, The Boston Globe

Review:

“This is a book that will not change the world but should change the people who read it. Which should cause its author rather a lot of pleasure.” Paula Marantz Cohen, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

Seven Pleasures explores a range of satisfactions to be enjoyed in the everyday life — or, to put it another way, in the no man's land between religion and pharmacology, what Mr. Spiegelman calls the ‘twin pillars of the American happiness industry. Individual chapters focus on his own chief pleasures: reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing. One theme of his ‘book of gerunds is that ordinariness can yield much more pleasure than is normally assumed. All the striving for happiness in our culture may cause us to overlook the riches of the familiar and near to hand....The eighth pleasure the book provides is in the intelligence and grace he brings to the job.” Wes Davis, The Wall Street Journal

Review:

“In this luminous, compelling book, Spiegelman comments on seven activities that can bring us ordinary happiness — reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing — injecting biographical elements into the universal messages he imparts. First, though, he tries to define, or at least capture the essence of, happiness. ‘Happiness,' he observes, ‘has received less respect and less serious attention than melancholy.' He notes the American propensity to see happiness as a right and contrasts it with the gloominess of the European mindset. With the exception of dancing, every activity he writes about involves solitude. In the reading chapter, he refers to his generation as ‘the last children born before the ubiquity of television; if watching TV's early, fuzzy images was unpleasant, reading was fun.' In the walking chapter, he flees Dallas, his hometown, for London, a city in which walking is normal, not a chore or something to be avoided (Dallas and much of modern America, apart from the older cities of the East and Midwest, are simply too big and, in the case of Dallas, too hot to walk in comfortably). Writing in a leisurely manner, Spiegelman takes time to make his points and, whatever activity hes engaged in at the moment, to be a thoughtful, genial companion.” Booklist (starred review)

Review:

“Some books are easy companions, and this essay collection, in which Spiegelman speaks affectionately of them, can join their ranks.” Publishers Weekly

Synopsis:

What does it mean to be happy? Ever since the Founding Fathers invited every citizen to join the pursuit of happiness, Americans have been studying and pining for that elusive state of mind. But rather than explaining happiness, in Seven Pleasures Willard Spiegelman demonstrates it: he immerses us in the joyful, illuminating practice of seven simple pleasures — dancing, reading, walking, looking, listening, swimming, and writing — and evokes all the satisfactions they offer. Lighthearted, insightful, and deeply felt, Seven Pleasures is a portrait of pure enjoyment.

About the Author

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University and has been editor of the Southwest Review since 1984. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

HRios, December 12, 2013 (view all comments by HRios)
“What does it mean to be happy?” How cliché, eh? Yet isn’t this the question that dictates every turn we make in life? In Seven Pleasures, Willard Spiegelman puts a new spin on the psychological question by sharing what he views as the secrets to ordinary, secular happiness. Conducive with what could be expected of a writer, the secrets of his book are the little things in life which must be pondered on to be appreciated. Spiegelman focuses on simplicities such as walking and looking, and explains various situations when he has exercised these practices.
When I picked up Seven Pleasures, I thought it would be a light read to discover tips to finding simple happiness in life. What I found was that Spiegelman’s keys sometimes got lost in his descriptions of the streets of Vienna and other various details of many travels and celebrity run-ins. While his stories were colorful and entertaining, they definitely distinguish the book as a compilation of essays rather than a self-help or inspirational book. The book focuses on practices that bring Spiegelman happiness and gives some examples, rather than giving tips to the audience to find happiness. Much of the music, literature, and art Spiegelman wrote of was familiar to me, but I admit that this reading reminded me how much I am not familiar with in the arts. None of Spiegelman’s pleasures focused on an acquisition of knowledge, yet this was the between-the-lines message which I read most clearly. Spiegelman’s love for culture is the interwoven thread that ties all the seven pleasures together. This book reminds the reader of the beauty and culture surrounding him, both around the globe and around the street corner, through the eyes of one viewer who has found his not-so-secret recipe to simple happiness.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312429676
Subtitle:
Essays on Ordinary Happiness
Author:
Spiegelman, Willard
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Personal Growth - Happiness
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
Self-Help : General
Subject:
Happiness
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20100831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.75 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies

Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.00 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Picador USA - English 9780312429676 Reviews:
"Review" by , “Both a simple & complex pleasure, slow & swift at once, a graceful meditation. [The] impulse to share his enjoyment has resulted in Seven Pleasures, an appropriately entertaining and provocative book. Scholar, editor and teacher, Spiegelman is writing here — as a ‘loving amateur — about happiness and ‘the pleasurable things you can do to promote it and to increase a sense of general well-being, of what is called sanguinity.”
"Review" by , “This is a book that will not change the world but should change the people who read it. Which should cause its author rather a lot of pleasure.”
"Review" by , Seven Pleasures explores a range of satisfactions to be enjoyed in the everyday life — or, to put it another way, in the no man's land between religion and pharmacology, what Mr. Spiegelman calls the ‘twin pillars of the American happiness industry. Individual chapters focus on his own chief pleasures: reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing. One theme of his ‘book of gerunds is that ordinariness can yield much more pleasure than is normally assumed. All the striving for happiness in our culture may cause us to overlook the riches of the familiar and near to hand....The eighth pleasure the book provides is in the intelligence and grace he brings to the job.”
"Review" by , “In this luminous, compelling book, Spiegelman comments on seven activities that can bring us ordinary happiness — reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing — injecting biographical elements into the universal messages he imparts. First, though, he tries to define, or at least capture the essence of, happiness. ‘Happiness,' he observes, ‘has received less respect and less serious attention than melancholy.' He notes the American propensity to see happiness as a right and contrasts it with the gloominess of the European mindset. With the exception of dancing, every activity he writes about involves solitude. In the reading chapter, he refers to his generation as ‘the last children born before the ubiquity of television; if watching TV's early, fuzzy images was unpleasant, reading was fun.' In the walking chapter, he flees Dallas, his hometown, for London, a city in which walking is normal, not a chore or something to be avoided (Dallas and much of modern America, apart from the older cities of the East and Midwest, are simply too big and, in the case of Dallas, too hot to walk in comfortably). Writing in a leisurely manner, Spiegelman takes time to make his points and, whatever activity hes engaged in at the moment, to be a thoughtful, genial companion.”
"Review" by , “Some books are easy companions, and this essay collection, in which Spiegelman speaks affectionately of them, can join their ranks.”
"Synopsis" by , What does it mean to be happy? Ever since the Founding Fathers invited every citizen to join the pursuit of happiness, Americans have been studying and pining for that elusive state of mind. But rather than explaining happiness, in Seven Pleasures Willard Spiegelman demonstrates it: he immerses us in the joyful, illuminating practice of seven simple pleasures — dancing, reading, walking, looking, listening, swimming, and writing — and evokes all the satisfactions they offer. Lighthearted, insightful, and deeply felt, Seven Pleasures is a portrait of pure enjoyment.
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