Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy is the New Depressed

When things are slow at the book store, I walk around and try to find the new Trend in publishing. Lately, I have been struck by the number of books with the word "happy" or "happiness" in the title. There are lots of new novels:

A Happy Marriage, by Rafael Yglesias
I'm So Happy for You, by Lucinda Rosenfeld
Pharmakon, or the Story of a Happy Family, by Dirk Wittenborn
Happy Families, by Carlos Fuentes
Secrets to Happiness, by Sarah Dunn
Pieces of Happily Ever After, by Irene Zutell
Happy Trails to You, by Julie Hecht
Happiness Key, by Emilie Richards

And even more nonfiction. I'm not going to bother listing them.

What is it all about? Do we want to read about happy people, rather than depressed ones? Is it because we're happy, or because we're not? I've noticed, too, that more novels have happy endings; it used to be that romances and chick lit did that, but now everyone does. At first I was surprised and touched, but now I'm slightly creeped out.


Anonymous said...

What do you say? Should I write a novel called "Shitty Trails To You"?

k. said...

I'm not too sure I want to read about happy people, so I hope some of those titles used the word ironically. I've been wondering about this a little myself lately, as I had an agent tell me my novel sounded "too depressing" (based on the synopsis). To each his own, I suppose, but when it comes down to it, I think unhappy people have more of a place in literature than happy people. I mean, let's face it, most happy people, in novels and in real life, are usually pretty obnoxious.

5 Red Pandas said...

I suspect some of those titles are meant ironically.

When I think of "happy" I think about how my mother used to demand I "just be happy!" when I was a teenager but she didn't sound very happy when she was commanding me to be happy. I felt like saying, "practice what you preach!"

I think there is a difference between happiness and something like contentment or satisfaction. I think happiness is harder to sustain on a daily basis and is an emotion that fluctuates more than either contentment or satisfaction.

Not sure what all this has to do with literary trends, though.

Anonymous said...

And Rhian, we both like Laurie Colwin's "Happy All The Time," or at least we used to.

rmellis said...

I think they are meant ironically, but that "happiness" is still a subject, if you know what I mean. It's a kind of cultural obsession right now...

I remember a professor telling me that Laurie Colwin's book was the only one he could think of, among books recently published, that was actually about happy people -- maybe she was an early adopter??

jon said...

Oh, those happy families are all alike!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!