Wednesday, April 30, 2008


by Chris Crutcher

I was just trying to figure out which other books by C.C. I've read so I could tack them on to this entry. I know I read Athletic Shorts, but I can't figure out which other one. I know it was something to do with sports... Um, yeah, pretty much all his books are. In any case, it didn't make a huge impression, apparently, and neither did the short story collection, although I remember both being perfectly adequate examples of the high-school-athlete-overcomes-obstacle genre.

Anyway. I do remember thinking it was all too obviously an adult (and I don't even mean twenty- or thirty-something) trying to write in the voice of a teenager. But I didn't notice that in this new book, oddly enough. It was a fun, quick read — fun despite the plot revolving around the imminent death of the 18-year-old protagonist from a fast-acting, incurable disease that he hasn't told his family or friends about.

The character has a really engaging voice, and he does all the narrating, so there's no evidence of Crutcher's crotchetiness. There is the occasional odd turn of phrase, but I'd chalk that up to the rural Idaho setting and/or the "things my dad says" phenomenon. For example: "I'd swim through five hundred yards of molten turds to listen to her fart into a paper sack over the telephone" — which actually cracked me up.

And speaking of crack, this football-related quote gave me a different sort of thrill: "Thomas taps the lineman on the hole he's going through, twice on the butt."

The Loss of Sadness

by Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield

Two researchers are making a case — no coincidence that revisions are underway for a fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — that the diagnostic criteria for Major Depression have led to over-diagnosing and the pathologizing of normal sadness. Long story short: the DSM entry for depression makes an exemption for bereavement but not for other significant life events (romantic betrayal, financial woes, and so on and so forth) that can result in profound sadness, i.e., can cause symptoms that meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression if the symptoms are taken in isolation and no consideration is given to the context in which they arose, which leads to people being medicated for normal kinds of sadness that would abate with time, ultimately feeding the expectation that no one need ever feel sad and "there ought to be a pill for that."*

Ultimately, I think the book is too in-depth and sometimes too technical for a lay audience. I actually learned everything I wanted to know from this lengthy review.

*See also my review of Happiness: a history.