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ISSUE 116 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/20/2002

By Megan Parker
Staff Writer

Friday, September 20, 2002

So, fellow Oles, how did you progress on your summer reading list? What list, you inquire. Dont we do enough of that during the school year? Yes, I concede, you have a point. But doesnt the prospect of being able to choose which books to gloss your eyes over excite you? I confess, I didnt do enough of the printed word mental stimulation, but I did manage to knock off a few (many of which would be considered worthless by the academic). But there was the occasional gem among the wastes of paper, one of which was Will Fergusons Happiness™. Before you think this title sounds like a fluffy piece chock full of feel-good testimonials on how to better ones life, let me explain. Will Ferguson is one satirical Canadian and his debut novel brings that personality trait to the forefront. The premise circles around the work of book editor Edwin de Valu, a lost soul of Generation X who lives in an unnamed American city (presumably New York) and lives an unhappy life amid a marriage he despises, working at a job that provides him zero satisfaction. When Edwins company, Panderic, loses its fall self-help line due to the illegal antics of Mr. Ethics, its former self-help author, the ever unprepared Edwin is stuck with the task of lining up a new author to fill the spot. At an editorial meeting, with nothing else to show, Edwin spouts off about the last work of "slush" to pass by his desk on its way to the trash, a monumental typewriter-written manuscript called What I Learned on the Mountain by Tupak Soiree. The book presupposes to be the ultimate self-help book, one that will make people rich, help them lose weight, improve their sex lives, stop hair loss, and better their minds among a host of other promises. Through a convoluted chain of events, the book makes its way to the press and hits the stores, where it goes through an immense and seemingly endless climb to worldwide popularity. The book actually works; it does all it promises to do. Soirees readers become fulfilled and content people. Happiness becomes so connected with Soirees book that the word even ends up trade-marked. A maelstrom of world-changing events occur: tobacco companies shut down when everyone stops smoking, rehab centers for alcoholics close up, the fitness and beauty industries go bust, and while everyone is happy, Edwin is more troubled than ever. While everyone elses life comes together, Edwins falls apart. When the book fails to solve Edwins problems and he sees the folly in a world full of content people with glazed-over eyes, he sets out on a quest to right the world by restoring its wrongs. As a satire on American culture, Ferguson, a non-American North American, creates a running commentary on the American obsession with the self-help phenomenon and with creating perfect lives. As an interesting look into the true meaning of the word happiness, the book provides a curious idea of what our world might look like and how it would function if indeed everyone were happy. Fergusons writing style is snappy with sufficient GRE-level words and sometimes-obscure pop culture references to keep any reader busy. The prose is entertaining, but not on such a level that it seems to drain the brain. "Happiness" has a smart appeal to it and should be enjoyable enough to keep even the most serious of readers satisfied.

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