Posts Tagged ‘depression’
January 2, 2013 | by Jacob Leland
The opening scenes of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times demonstrate the indignities mechanized factory production perpetrates upon the bodies of its workers. The first shot, of sheep herded into a pen, dissolves into one of men leaving the subway. They’re bound, the viewer assumes, for the kind of job in which the next cut finds Chaplin’s Little Tramp: working on an assembly line, his motions so repetitive that they become reflexive. He can’t stop twisting his wrists, as if to tighten bolts, even when he leaves the station where he tightens bolts all day. His body is so bound to the line and to the factory that the same boss who controls the conveyor belt’s speed also controls the movements of the Tramp’s body. Finally, the factory extends its control to the Tramp’s last autonomous function: eating his lunch.
A salesman so committed to mechanization that he lets a machine speak for him has brought to the factory boss’s office a prototype of “the Billows Feeding Machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your men while at work.” He asks the boss to pick one of his workers for a demonstration, and of course Chaplin’s Tramp is volunteered. Strapped into the machine, hands incapacitated, the helpless Tramp watches the machine rotate plates before him: soup, air-cooled between spoonfuls; corn, spinning on its cob; cubes of meat, pushed by a mechanical arm from the plate into his mouth; and finally cake for dessert. The machine promises to “eliminate the lunch hour.”
Even before the machine goes predictably haywire—speeding up, spilling soup on the Tramp’s shirt and cake in his face (always pausing, hilariously, to wipe his mouth)—it’s clear to the viewer that some kind of line has been crossed. Read More »
November 1, 2012 | by Elissa Bassist
I moved to New York for graduate school. I was in my mid-twenties, and what do we do when we’re in our mid-twenties? We move to New York with very little money and very high hopes. Like many, I entered into the nexus of love and wealth and fame looking for a piece of the glistering and transmutable dream itself. In short, I was here to write a book.
But standing on the threshold of this dream, I began to panic. I thought, I have arrived, and thought nothing of how far I had to go or what it would take to get there. I could see downtown Brooklyn from my window, and most days my impression of New York came from inside my bedroom. Outside, the sidewalks were cobbled and uneven, and the houses and apartments looked like replicas of the houses and apartments I’d watch on TV.
I’d lived in Brooklyn less than a month but had already settled into an inexplicable depression I’d nicknamed The Darkness. I couldn’t leave my apartment, except to attend class in Manhattan two nights a week. Sitting on the F train, I felt sure no one could lived in New York without a constantly replenished supply of antidepressants, courtesy of some kind of pharmaceutical Fresh Direct. Read More »
September 21, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Dear Paris Review,
I am currently suffering from a major depression, which has caused me to lose my job and my relationship. I see a therapist and a psychiatrist, and I believe and hope I’m beginning to recover. I have been a major reader all my life, but the depression has made it difficult for me to concentrate, so I haven’t been able to read much lately. I’ve been reading bits and pieces of books I’ve read before many times (Darkness Visible, Diving Into the Wreck), trying to get something from them.
I suppose I’m looking for two different types of book as I recover: books that will show me why to live and how, and books that will allow me to escape my present torture. Both need to be pretty easy to follow—for instance, I recently bought The Myth of Sisyphus after reading William Styron’s reference too it, but it’s too difficult for my slow brain right now.
I’ve been where you are and know exactly the state you describe: one of the many distressing aspects of depression is the inability to lose yourself—and for those of us who have always found comfort in books, this is particularly scary. It goes without saying that everyone’s recovery process is different, and without a sense of your exact tastes—although it is clear you are an ambitious and curious reader with wide-ranging interests—it is a little tricky to suggest comfort reads. (After all, that is so bound up with one’s history and associations, no?) But I can tell you what has worked for me, and for some people I know, and hope that the suggestions, and the knowledge that you are in good company, will prove helpful.
August 22, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
July 10, 2012 | by Chris Wallace
Late in the third quarter of a blowout loss at North Torrance High School my junior year I woke up in a blurry huddle. Grids of stadium lighting were smeared on the South Bay night sky as if they’d been moved before they dried. My teammates stood around me in their away whites, the sateen jerseys looking smudged and shabby in the dark. I shouldn’t have been surprised if a star suddenly dilated just to wink at me, such was my loopy state of mind—and my self-regard as a high school quarterback.
A timeout had been called, apparently. There was no apparent rush to get back to the line of scrimmage, run another play. And our coach was in the huddle with us. Oh, thank god, I thought, Coach is playing. I’d never seen him in uniform before, but didn’t think to question it—we needed all the help we could get. Though, standing next to the star receiver with whom he’d traded outfits, he did look a lot taller than normal.
Reassuring counsel was given by someone, maybe me, as we gathered ourselves to go back on.
We settled on a simple play: everyone run as far as you can as fast as you can, and I’ll throw the ball to one of you, ready, break. I stepped under center in a kind of euphoria, took the snap, dropped back and threw our coach—or, rather, the receiver onto whom I’d transposed Coach’s face—a forty-two-yard touchdown, and walked off the field, vindicated and giggling.
A blink and it was two hours later. Read More »
March 23, 2012 | by Sasha Frere-Jones
This week our friend Sasha Frere-Jones was kind enough to share his good counsel. By day, Sasha is the pop critic for The New Yorker, and by night he is a member of the bands Calvinist and Piñata. By day or night, he gives darn good advice.
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of after-college angst films. Kicking and Screaming by Noah Baumbach and St. Elmo’s Fire by Joel Schumacher more than any others, though there are others. Anyway, I’m currently studying writing in Chicago, and with graduation just around the corner I’ve been wondering about novels that focus on this time period, or perhaps even nonfiction. I realize there are many college novels, and books about people who have in fact received diplomas from various universities, but I’m wondering more about books that focus purely on that new onset of confusion immediately after leaving the comforts of academia.
Try Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? and Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado. Dundy’s book is set in 1950s Paris, ground zero for Madcap Hijinks. A young woman named Sally Jay Gorce larks about, alternating between enthusiastic musing and socially inept hedonism. Some of the comedy is too arch, like a Jack Lemmon movie with too much mugging, but Gorce is as likable as Lemmon. Dundy’s sentences are rhythmically subtle and easily devoured. It is not a bad thing to be reminded that your postcollege years can be infinitely ill-considered without doing too much damage.
How Should A Person Be? is the inverse of The Dud Avocado. The book’s form is fluid and unpredictable: lists are followed by dramatic dialogue, and a fair number of pages are devoted to a competition between friends to see who can create the worst painting. The architecture gives the prose a circular, easy feeling, even though Heti is taking a hard look at what makes life meaningful and how one doesn’t end up loveless and lost. It is book peopled by twentysomethings but works easily as a manual for anyone who happens to have run into a spiritual wall. (Heti’s book is out in Canada now, but will be released here in June. The American version will be different, because Heti herself wanted to modify the text, a fairly unusual thing in fiction.)
Dear lovely Paris Review,
Could you let me know of a few books, written between 1790 and 1930*, that will make me undepressed? I don’t mean a book that’s necessarily funny or optimistic, usually those throw me even deeper into depression—I mean something that’s going to legitimately make me see the world through someone else’s completely fascinating or biased or hyper-judgmental or abstract vision of it so that I can leave my own consciousness for a bit? Or even a book that puts depression into perspective.
*I add a time constraint because I would like to read books that were written before depression was labeled as such, or diagnosed.
I can’t promise that either of these books will cure depression or induce happiness—enormous tasks—but both are fantastic and are narrated by protagonists living in fractured worlds. Emilio Lascano Tegui’s On Elegance While Sleeping was published in 1925, and is as far from self-help psychobabble as fiction gets. The protagonist, Meursault, is entirely unreliable, and that is not a failing. He wanders, apparently syphilitic, through a French village at some point in the nineteenth century. He witnesses acts of depravation and plans, in a leisurely way, to commit murder. The book is brief and compressed, with the blurred edges of a dream, and the perversity of the characters is matched by the economy of Tegui’s prose. The present moment seems pretty timid after spending time in Meursault’s mind.
Fernando Pessoa did not exactly write The Book of Disquiet, which was assembled from various scraps and published long after the author’s death in 1935. The fragments that make up this book are attributed to Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s several alter egos, or “heteronyms,” as he called them. Soares seems almost identical to Pessoa, from what we know, and this work chronicles the life of a flaneur in Lisbon, walking, worrying, assembling, and disassembling his own psyche. Read More »