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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 using 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. Publishers Weekly Some books are easy companions, and this essay collection, in which Spiegelman speaks affectionately of them, can join their ranks. His top seven picks for happiness are reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing-activities that are free and accessible to anyone with a library card and a pair of comfortable shoes. As old-fashioned, and occasionally charming, as a Lawrence Welk waltz, Spiegelman proclaims his suspicion of new technology that might replace the book and regrets dancing that doesn't involve a partner and a prescribed step. To today's sufferers, melancholiacs, and ordinary neurotics, can we safely say, 'Throw out your Prozac, pick up your Wordsworth?' The advice would revolutionize the health industry. Spiegelman, editor of the Southwest Review and professor of English at Southern Methodist University, is no self-help guru, but he is an intelligent, well-read and kindly soul. Back in the good old days, he found a set of activities that made him happy, and knows he's not the first to write on these subjects. But can a happiness-obsessed society accept that the simple act of looking at one painting all afternoon can make all the difference?
August 2, 2010