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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Happiness Project

... by Gretchen Rubin, an ex-lawyer and a writer raised in the Midwest and living in New York.

I couldn't finish the book. It gave me a few voyeuristic pleasures for about half of the book, but then her chipper "feeling happy through acting happy" routine just grated on me more and more. So I abandoned it about 3/4 way through.

Her year-long happiness project was pretty much centered around the principle "fake it till you make it." I hope it works for her. I'm sure it doesn't work for me. Her spiritual model, she claims, is Saint Therese of Lisieux. One of the telling anecdotes Rubin cites as an ideal is how Saint Therese went out of her way to be exceptionally nice and friendly to a certain nun who grated on her nerves every day, thus giving that nun an impression that she had made Saint Therese very happy. Ah, how saintly! By that logic, I should write a letter to Rubin, telling her what a wonderful and profound writer she is and how she has changed my life from despair to ecstasy.

During the year of her "happiness project," she would assign herself behavioral goals every month, ranging from refraining from fighting with her husband to preparing parties and homemade gifts for her mother-in-law. Then she would mark them off on their calendar day by day: Done/Not done. She did admit that she had failed some of these goals, but she claimed that the efforts did make her happier. Good for her, I hope, cuz I couldn't tell from her writing whether she felt happier or not.

I should have known her book was not my cup of tea when I read that she prepares a holiday card with her family photo every year and mails it diligently to all her families and friends (and seethes with anger if her husband shows no interest in participating in such a wonderful activity as slapping stamps on these letters).

At least Rubin is somewhat honest about her own shallowness. Although she collected and read tons of books on every happiness-related book she could find, fervently took notes, and cited their lessons obsessively in every chapter, I could sense neither synthesis nor insight out of her own mind after all the cramming. Very lawyerly. Very middle-class, white, middle-aged American woman.

Perfect for a Woody Allen satire.


CAVA said...

听着都替她累。项目里的其他人,那些goals的对象,不知道有没有快乐些?不然就变成她一个人独自快乐了 ;-)

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for her husband Jamie Rubin - having to put up with her.

Or maybe he has a mistress on the side like his father Bob Rubin.

Jun said...

Oh, juicy! I had no idea her father-in-law is *that* Bob Rubin. And I don't pay enough attention to know that Bob Rubin has a mistress on the side! No wonder his daughter-in-law is so typical.

Gretchen Rubin is so predictably WASP that I think she would go right on with her happiness project if Jamie had a mistress on the side.

Mark said...

Happiness is overrated!
hi jun,
mark moran

Jun said...

Hi, Mark! Nice new poem.

I want happiness, but not Gretchen Rubin's version.

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