REVIEW by Willard Manus
believe...that an informed sanguinity stands a chance. With some effort,
one can find contentment, happiness, call it what you will, without the
consolations of religion and without the help of psychotherapy and pharmacology.
In a secular age, or within a secular disposition, cheerfulness may finally
win out over its sibling humors."
Thus comments Willard Spiegelman in SEVEN PLEASURES--ESSAYS ON HUMAN HAPPINESS
(Picador). Spiegelman, an English professsor at SMU and editor of The
Southwest Review, is an optimist when it comes to happiness, a human condition
he has thought long and hard about, always in a down to earth, un-New
"At its most distressing, the pursuit of happiness leads to the equation
of satisfaction with instant gratification, or to sudden religious conversions,
the joy of accepting Jesus as one's personal savior," Spiegelman
His goal in life, as the book's essays confirm, has been to find the secret
of happiness in ordinary human activities: specifically reading, walking,
looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing. Spiegelman analyzes
the satisfactions that such activities offer, emphasizing that they demand
"some quotient of leisure as well as concentration. A sense of humor--not
taking oneself too seriously comes in handy as well. One forgives oneself
in the pleasure of doing something 'useless'; dreaming over a book and
becoming part of it; losing oneself in writing words, which, although
chosen, still manage to have an independent life and their own seeming
volition; focusing through the eye and ear on the seen or the heard; living
through the body in acts of walking, swimming, or dancing, in which the
small ego has been vanished or or been transcended."
Mixing autobiographical elements (taking up ballroom dancing, attempting
to play the piano, etc.) with quotations from the numerous writers, poets,
artists, composers and teachers he admires, Spiegleman has not only put
together a guide to a civilized life but a celebration of all the blissful
things the world has to offer.