Seven Pleasures, by Willard Spiegelman

pleasuresSeven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, by Willard Spiegelman. New York: Picador, 2009. 208 pp. $16 (paperback).

In Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, Willard Spiegelman asks: “In adulthood, what should—what does—one read? No longer having the luxury of youthful promiscuity, knowing that the clock ticks, that every choice of something eliminates something else, what should you do?” (p. 49).

Spiegelman suggests rereading “those books that gave pleasure in the past.” He adds:

A photographic memory is not necessarily a blessing; there’s a charm in forgetting, so if you’re not cursed with perfect recall, you’ll have the joy of discovering some things as though for the first time, while others will hit you with the refreshing rush of repetition. As an older version of the person you’ve always been, you can have things two ways at once: something old, something new; something recalled, something revealed. (p. 49)

Although Spiegelman does not directly advise going back to what one loves and extracting still more pleasure from it, or learning to convert a declining memory into a source of enjoyment, he nevertheless provides example after example of himself doing just such things. Whereas other books about happiness tell readers how to become happy, in Seven Pleasures Spiegelman simply discusses the activities that have made him happy and shows how he has learned to deeply enjoy his life. . . .

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