Book Review: Why Are You So Sad? By Jason Porter


Synopsis (taken from the back of the book):

Have we all sunken into a species-wide bout of clinical depression?

Porter’s uproarious, intelligent debut centers on Raymond Champs, an illustrator of assembly manuals for a home furnishings corporation, who is charged with a huge task: To determine whether or not the world needs saving. It comes to him in the midst of a losing battle with insomnia — everybody he knows, and maybe everybody on the planet, is suffering from severe clinical depression. He’s nearly certain something has gone wrong. A virus perhaps. It’s in the water, or it’s in the mosquitoes, or maybe in the ranch flavored snack foods. And what if we are all too sad and dispirited to do anything about it? Obsessed as he becomes, Raymond composes an anonymous survey to submit to his unsuspecting coworkers — “Are you who you want to be?”, “Do you believe in life after death?”, “Is today better than yesterday?” — because what Raymond needs is data. He needs to know if it can be proven. It’s a big responsibility. People might not believe him. People, like his wife and his boss, might think he is losing his mind. But only because they are also losing their minds. Or are they?

My thoughts:

Holy s*** you guys. Porter lays on some heavy duty stuff here. I’ve never come across a book that has unearthed my insecurities on such a massive scale. I felt as though someone was standing over me, pouring my insecurities onto my head and smearing them all over me…. I mean that in the best way possible.

It’s a powerful, compelling and thought provoking read. What makes this book powerful (and books in general) is the level of reliability. It doesn’t mean that the reader has to have experience with the topic at hand. You see the true power of a writer when their words are relatable to those near and far. It was almost as though Porter had collected information about me while I was asleep and compiled it into a book. It was a nice reminder of how human I am. Most of what is written in this book is common knowledge, or at least it is to people who have dealt with depression.  It helped me realize that what I struggle with is not unique. When you live in your own head, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that there are other people, all around you, who are probably going through the same thing. Also, I’m a sucker for books that delve deep into the instability of Corporate America, especially because I currently find myself in the thick of it. This book is short, but it packs a wallop.

Bottom line: I found my new favorite book.

Favorite lines (There are about thirty more,  but here are my absolute favorites):

* I knew that at the very least, I was depressed. I wondered if the depression had always been there. It was not unlike listening to the song “American Pie.” You reach a point in the song when you ask yourself, “Have I always been listening to this song?” To answer yes defies rationality, but to answer no discredits your experiential reality.

* It is my very clear understanding that dreams, like apartment buildings, are composed of many floors and rooms.

* She started saying other things, a lot of things, but I couldn’t hear her. Or at least a central part of me resisted hearing her. She might want to categorize this behavior as not listening, but that sounds more willful than the way I experienced it. For me it felt like I was being held captive by an instinctively dissociative response to her words.

* I played a game I like to play with my memory, where I insert fantasized memories back into my life, altering its course, but feeling deeply that it’s almost real, or certainly would have transpired that way, had I just made a few difference moves.

* Looking at him made me sad. His big head. The brown suits. His misguided sense of self-worth. Sometimes it made me enjoy looking at him, because I felt less sad about myself. But of course that was a trap, no doubt an aspect of the global virus that kept people complacent. Things can’t be so bad,because I am definitely not as bad of as that guy. It doesn’t matter who that guy is.

Over all:

Raw, real, emotional, and funny. Not funny in the ‘ha-ha’ sense but funny in the ‘Woah, life is whack, but I love it anyway’ kind of funny. If such a funny exists…

This is going to be one of those books that I recommend to everyone I know.

Rating: 5 Stars

You can find more information about the author here

Next week’s read: The Haunted Life by Jack Kerouac.

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