Sunday, September 14, 2014

"How To Make Yourself Miserable"  by Dan Greenburg

Recently, on Facebook, there was a challenge going around to name the ten books that impacted you the most. At the end of the challenge you were supposed to challenge others to join in.  This was one of the more thought provoking challenges around so I thought I would take part.  I thought I would just rattle off ten books that came off the top of my head -- that should do it -- but when I looked at the list I was quite surprised to see what I had written.  The first book was The Bible.  Now, you are probably saying "how stereotypical -- doesn't everybody put that on a list of this sort"?  Well, I don't know but I know why I put it on mine -- I am not a Bible scholar by any means, haven't read it all the way through, don't carry a well worn leather bound copy with me at all times but I do know that it contains all the answers I need to any problem that life can hand me and so I feel that is a huge impact on me.  The last book on the list was actually a set of books -- The World Book Encyclopedia.  I remember my mother purchasing the set of books from a door - to - door salesman.  He took the order and we had to wait for them to be delivered.  I remember the night they came -- it was a rainy evening, the sun had gone down and, since this was before FedEX and UPS, the postal service brought it.  I remember being so excited.  I remember arranging the books on the bookshelves in my room and I also remember systematically going through each book and pretty much reading through it.  I loved those books.

Just for the record, I remember learning how to spell "encyclopedia" from Jiminy Cricket on the Mickey Mouse Club.

There were various other books on the list that had lasting impact on me like "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl", "The Good Master" and the Jan Karon Mitford books.  Most of my offereings were children's books but then, isn't that when we are the most impressionable?

I digress.  I went on to challenge several other people and one person, Jim M., took the challenge to heart.  He gave it considerable thought and came up with a really good list -- quite varied, all interesting (although a lot of it over my head).  One book, "How to Make Yourself Miserable" was one that he recommended I read so I went on to Ebay, found a copy, bought it and read it.  As I told Jim -- it was hysterically funny and painfully relatable all at the same time!

A bit of a back story -- Jim M. and I knew each other in elementary and junior high school.  He was a member of the educational sub-group known as the "smart kids".  There was a whole group of these boys, and I remember all of them, that just reeked of intelligence.  I was on the edge of this group because I was very good in English and history -- not so much in math -- I would have trouble counting to 20 using my fingers and toes but wasn't that the expected norm for girls in the 50's-60's?  I think so.  Now, this sub-group of super smart children wasn't the same as the "A" group of the social elite -- you know, the "popular" ones.  I definitely wasn't a part of THAT group -- I was sort of a social group of my own -- so I floated around the periphery of the "smart kids" and the rest of the time I just lived in my own little world.  Now, Jim M. and I went to different high schools -- he went to the high school with the "smart kids" and I went to the one closest to my house.  Time marched on and lots of life happened and only with the advent of social media did I make contact with classmates from the past, including Jim M.  It was no surprise to me that Jim M. had grown up to be a professor -- of math -- and it was no surprise to me that he is well read and has a wide variety of interests.  It is no surprise to me that he has a well developed vocabulary as well.  What did surprise me is that he remembered me.  It was a pleasant surprise and we have gone on to have many conversations about our school days and our lives since, about what has happened to many of our friends and our current interests.  So, I was interested in his list of books and was anxious to read the one he recommended to me -- "How to Make Yourself Miserable".

"How to Make Yourself Miserable" is a guide book, so to speak, on how to punish yourself for all your guilts, how to create, maintain and perpetuate all manner of anxiety and how to, bascially, undermine yourself until you completely alienate the entire world.  This book was written in 1966 and I have to say that it was geared to the young adults of the time, those who were raised in the late 40's and 50's with the mores of the era and all the guilt that went along with it.  As I read along, I could relate to so many of the hilarious scenarios that were presented.  Of course, not all those scenarios were from decades past -- the airplane bit was much more currently relative.   In any event, I must have mellowed out in my dotage because I found it all to be quite amusing whereas, if I had read the book when it was published, I would have recognized myself right off the bat and that would have created an anxiety of its own.

It was a fun read.  I would recommend if you can get a copy of it.  Out of print, I am sure.  Thanks, Jim M. for the suggestion.