Showcasing the work of Eric G. Wilson

Eric’s very personal essay (Forgiving the Darkness) was one of those pieces that I really didn’t have to think about accepting. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it I immediately passed it along to my non-fiction editor (Joan Hana) with a note that read something along the lines of, “I want this!” Most of the time I try hard not to take such a biased stand when I pass work along, preferring to let the r.kv.r.y. genre editors respond to a piece without knowing what my feelings about the work are, but occasionally I can’t contain my enthusiasm and want to be sure we get back to the author and ask for the work as quickly as possible. I needn’t have worried. Eric’s essay has moved everyone I’ve talked to who has read it. It’s honest, kind, unflinching, and universal in its search for meaning in sadness.

Which brings me to his most recent book (from which his r.kv.r.y. essay was excerpted): The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace

(Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010)

I haven’t had the opportunity to read this yet (it was released last fall) but I hope to soon. The Minneapolis Star Tribune had this to say about the book: “Brilliant, transcendent . . . In this raw, beautiful memoir, Wilson personalizes the themes he explored in his critically acclaimed 2008 book Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy [see below], exploring not only his own mental illness but the intellectual, emotional and spiritual journey he embarked on that saved his life, even infused it with meaning and beauty.”

Eric is also the author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/ Sarah Crichton Books, 2008) which Publisher’s Weekly described this way: “This slender, powerful salvo offers a sure-to-be controversial alternative to the recent cottage industry of high-brow happiness books. Wilson, chair of Wake Forest University’s English Department, claims that Americans today are too interested in being happy. (He points to the widespread use of antidepressants as exhibit A.) It is inauthentic and shallow, charges Wilson, to relentlessly seek happiness in a world full of tragedy. Wilson argues forcefully that melancholia is a necessary ingredient of any culture that wishes to be innovative or inventive. In particular, we need melancholy if we want to make true, beautiful art. Wilson calls for Americans to recognize and embrace melancholia, and he praises as bold radicals those who already live with the truth of melancholy.”

And here is an excellent NPR interview with Eric, discussing Against Happiness.