Saturday 14 August 2021


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Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
There is nothing funnier than depression, he thought, at least nothing funnier to me than my own depression. There is nothing more ludicrous than my inability to do even the simplest things, the kind of inability you would ordinarily expect to belong to the most difficult things, but really the simplest things are for me the most difficult, or at least indistinguishable from the most difficult, there is no difference between the simplest and the most difficult, but not in a way that would make the most difficult things achieveable, though really there is no reason why this should not be the case, other than my inability to imagine myself as the person who has achieved even the simplest, let alone the most difficult, things, he thought. There is nothing more ludicrous and perforce nothing funnier than that, he thought. There is a rupture of some kind, he thought, between me and my fortunate place in the world, making one of those self-obsessed, self-indulgent, grandiloquent statements that he found intolerable when others made them and so usually pretended not to hear them, which probably made him appear unsympathetic when he was in fact oversympathetic, which is just as useless. Is there any point in being oversympathetic to the self-revulsion of others, he wondered, no, this is just as pointless as my own self-revulsion, experience is disjoined from reality, neither revulsion is reasonable or appropriate, these revulsions are entirely ludicrous and perforce funny. That there is nothing funnier than my own self-revulsion should make my self-revulsion tolerable, but then it would hardly be self-revulsion and therefore not ludicrous enough to be funny, he thought. If I could find relief in this way from my suffering, he thought, recognising the self-obsession, self-indulgence and grandiloquence of this statement about suffering even as he made it, if I could find relief in this way from my suffering it wouldn’t be suffering and therefore wouldn’t be ludicrous enough to qualify as a relief. There is no relief, which only makes my suffering all the more ludicrous and perforce all the more funny. The more pathetic my suffering, the more inappropriate and ludicrous my suffering, the more self-obsessed and self-indulgent and grandiloquent and entirely pointless and unreasonable my suffering, the more I perforce suffer, and the funnier it is. Nothing funnier, he thought. Is this why I enjoyed this book, Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life, he wondered, this book he had read almost inadvertently, this book concerning a depressed young woman’s heroic efforts to achieve not very much and the degrees of shortness to which those efforts fall, this book concerning the disjunction between this young woman and her place in the world, this book at once funny and pathetic and, he supposed, terribly sad, written in the first person by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle but, as it says on the front cover, fiction, just like what he is writing now. He could not decide if he was oversympathetic or undersympathetic when he found this supposedly fictional woman’s depression so funny, but, he thought with a ludicrously grandiose thought, the tragic is only more tragic for not existing in the context of a tragedy, and it is this disjunction, he thought, that makes depression so ludicrous. Taking it seriously would increase the disjunction and make it more ludicrous still. 

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