Andy Martin

Better Now?

The Wellness Syndrome


Polity Books 200pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Some of you may, even today, be poised to write ‘Happy Birthday’ on a card. Reader, hold thy pen! Consider what you are saying to the birthday boy or girl. There is an implied imperative. So what if my birthday is not in fact happy? What if it’s miserable? Am I therefore a failure (as well as another year older)? I reckon we need a less coercive rewrite: ‘Have a happy birthday, if you feel like it, or you are lucky enough to be happy, but really it’s not a big deal and if you’d rather be a total misery, then that’s fine too.’ I guess it’s never going to catch on. But the point made by Carl Cederström and André Spicer in their short, brilliant and bracing book is that we are now being called upon to be happy (and healthy, wealthy and sexually fulfilled) not just on our birthdays but on every other day of the year too. I might as well get it out there: to hell with happiness! Or rather: happiness is hell.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,