Cover Image: Varieties of Melancholy

Varieties of Melancholy

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Member Reviews

The School of Life explores Melancholy and provides the reader with alternative ways of understanding a usually bleak, depressing emotion. Through pictures and various written means melancholy ‘s place in the world is explored; often through the eyes of an artist.

This book offers a different perspective on melancholy and shows its place in our world. An interesting read.

Thank you School of Life and NetGalley for this ARC.

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An interesting read. This book considers how melancholy people view the world, through different topic areas, and argues that it's not a bad/wrong state of being. Although it's not a popular or accepted state of being in society.

Overall, it's a wonderful antidote to the borderline obsessive positive thinking' mantra we are surrounded by today, recognising that it's okay to be sad - a much needed message. I will definitely dip into this again and would recommend it.

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With VARIETIES OF MELANCHOLY, The School of Life has once again provided a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be human. This exploration of "gentle sorrow" goes directly to the heart of what is often dismissed, ignored, or diagnosed as disorder and suggests a different view that embraces melancholy and the gifts it brings. I particularly enjoyed the art accompanying each of the explorations and the direct exploration of common experiences such as Sunday evening melancholy, gardening, and parties. I received an early copy of this book and these opinions are my own, unbiased thoughts.

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We’ll written and nicely illustrated but just didn’t think it warranted al these essays that become rather repetitive after a while.

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I like the concept, and I agree with almost everything expressed in this book: that melancholy, sadness and grief are a part of life not to be brushed under the rug or forced away. However, I didn't feel that this book brought much new to the table, and I found it a bit too reminiscent of late night dorm room conversations with a sad sack friend to be too enjoyable. I think this would be best consumed for comfort, in small doses, opened to the chapter most pertaining to your situation.

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“There are many ways of handling the unhappiness that inevitably comes with being human,” so begins the “Varieties of Melancholy,” by the School of Life, 2022. The School of Life is a team of writers and educators that attempts to offer practical insights for daily living. They wrote this book with the aim “to rehabilitate melancholy, to give it a more prominent and defined role and to make it easier to discuss.”

The title of the book brought to mind the human condition that most of us experience to varying degrees, embraced by one of my favorite authors, Soren Kierkegaard. He once said, “My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I have had.” A glance at world history in the introduction affirmed that melancholy is intrinsic to the human condition. The several images of melancholic poses from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries made me laugh.

The authors spent little time on a technical definition of melancholy. Instead, they illustrated how melancholy acts, feels, and thinks at different times. Illustrations are helpful, but these served only to express the opinions of the authors. It was difficult to find an appeal to facts anywhere in the book.

After opening by explaining that melancholy is not bitterness, anger, or cynical, the authors offer their subjective insights. The melancholy soul does not “respond to provocations with fury.” It “knows that the ultimate fate of the planet is to be absorbed by the Sun.” Concerning politics, “Melancholic voters feel that the best way to be safe in the world is to be thought well of, and will therefore avoid actions that could upset, alarm or confuse neighbors.” These types of assessments fill the book. They illustrate how a secular, left-leaning voter could experience melancholy. But even this is debatable, since it can be more crippling than the optimistic depictions found here.

Emptiness exists in all of us. We all know life is short and that our accomplishments do not matter. Society will forget most of us shortly after we die and will forget all of us given enough time. Add to this how we sense things are off, that reality ruptures. How should we live? This melancholic perspective led the authors to the thoughts found in this book. It leads others elsewhere.

I had a sense that the authors were attempting to present a way of life, a religion of sorts. Using the mystique of melancholy, they named the existential elephant in the room and discussed how to live with it. This was not the aim of the book, and melancholy belongs not only to the secular. Had the aim been to show how an agnostic handles melancholy, this book may have worked. If this is what you are after, buy it. If not, look elsewhere.

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Extended Essay : Repetitous, somewhat trite. Written by committee?

This was disappointing. I gave a slightly higher rating than I would have accorded the text as I did like the illustrations, the art works, which were far more profoundly engaging with the subject matter than the somewhat superficial writing, with its annoying ‘we’ lumping ‘us melancholics’ in a way which seemed, it I’m honest a trifle pretentious, ‘ain’t we special’.

I say this as somewhat who knew, from quite young, that I had a temperament inclining towards the melancholic. Which, again, I knew quite early was different from depression. Which I have also suffered from, and is completely different, possessing a stuckness, a heaviness, whilst melancholia (in my own experience of it) is fluidic, volatile, and easily lifts into, not happiness, necessarily, but revelations of joy.

In some ways, those classical humours – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, seem a more comfortable acknowledgement of nature, without what I found somewhat toe curling in this, - its rather ‘we special group’

The format analyses what melancholy is and isn’t, and then divides into dozens of short chapters. Melancholia in the supermarket, melancholia in sorting socks, melancholia whilst clipping your toenails, etc. Okay, I have over-egged the approach somewhat, but I was beginning to expect this.

I think I began to bridle most at the at the psychobabbly ‘The Womb and Melancholy’ and its analysis that this is the beginning of the condition because it is the lost Paradise we all long to return to. This was an unbelievably simplistic, not to mention, erroneous global analysis of the in utero experience. Those who work with neonates, and their mothers, may have much more refined understanding here, and though we would all want the foetal experience to be safe, there are many for whom, for a multiplicity of reasons, ‘safe in the womb’ may not have been the experience.

I wish that the writing itself had possessed more of the felt quality of its subject matter, as the pictorial reproductions so ably had ‘felt sense’ about them

I did gain ONE thing from this book which was an introduction to the modernist artist Agnes Martin.

I requested this as an advanced review copy from the publishers, via Netgalley, and am obviously grateful for the opportunity. Even if for the most part only my inner irritability was activated.

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A good deconstruction of melancholy and its relation with various state of emotions. Very relatable.

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My thanks to NetGalley and the people at The School of Life for an advanced copy of this essay collection on emotions.
"Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun'. If these lyrics make a reader go, yes I do, alas you might be experiencing melancholy, an emotion that is not talked about much, but one that can effect and affect the mind and life in many different ways.

Varieties of Melancholy by The School of LIfe, is a book that describes this feeling, a malaise that creeps up on you, not quite depression, not quite sadness, but a feeling that sneaks up on a person, and makes that person go hmm. Rainfalls, little league games, comic books, a perfume, a strong smell of drink, all these are triggers. The remembrance of better days when the world was all for you, and now it is gone never to be.

Through essays and examples the writers try not just to define melancholy, but list the varieties of what makes a person melancholic. Birthdays, parties not attended, lost opportunities. All these make the brain act different, so that even the most positive among is seems to find the day a little darker, and the sun not so bright. This is interesting mainly because I thought depression and melancholy went hand in hand. However melancholy can a person deal with the world, as it forces one to look back and think, I was sad at the time, but it did not kill or harm me. So maybe what I am dealing with today will be the same.

Not a cure all, or some sort of happiness making book. More a book on perceiving and understanding an emotion that is not sad, maybe rueful is a better definition. An intriguing gift for maybe that cynical person, who can always be counted on to see the worst. This might help round out some of their emotional corners. ,

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Easily read and digested essays examine the phenomenon of melancholia through a variety of lenses, some less expected than others. Clearly, the writers know whereof they speak. By design, this title speaks directly to melancholiacs and will likely provide more self-illumination to that element of the population than interpersonal insights to the non-melancholy looking in from the outside.

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An amazing self- help book which first tells you if you are a melancholy person or not. And if you are, then how
you feel different emotions. Many people don't even recognize that they are melancholy in nature. They always consider that they are in depression.
But this book helps you to explain that melancholy is an emotion and it is OK to feel every emotion related to it. All you need to be is, welcoming for all emotions. A good book for psychologist, philosophers and to anyone who wants to know themselves. I am sure if you are not a melancholic in nature you will still connect to the book as at some point of time in your life you have felt the emotions of melancholy.

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Finally! An incredibly well written book that celebrates the most neglected but valuable emotion we can feel:: melancholy. I happen to be on of those people who lives life in a near constant state of melancholy, a really misunderstood state of being that has not been properly discussed much less explained until now.

The main point of this book is to point out that above all else melancholy is NOT depression, rage, or bitterness We are not cynical or in need of medication, Rather it’s a serene, wise, and kindly response to the difficulties of being alive, a perspective that steers a mid-way course between despair on the one hand and naïve optimism on the other. Contrary to popular belief the truth remains that there may be no better way to confront the misery and lack of wholeness or direction than to settle on melancholy

Personally, this reader feels as though melancholy can be a philosophy of sorts, a useful, practical perspective that allows people to view much of life's experience in a different sort of light (that is often mistaken for shadows by most of the people we know). Melancholy spares us from many disappointments in life as The Melancholy approach life in such a way that allows us serenity in the face of chaos. While others fall a part we remain strong. By now, you may be shaking your head, or rolling your eyes believing that we are delusional at best, Before you complete write me off however, grab a copy of this book and prepare to walk away with a better understanding and maybe even the strength to allow yourself to join us in our different but valid celebration of life.

Varieties of Melancholy is a perfectly crafted collection of the various forms of the most recognized states of melancholy and provides expert quality explanations and reasonings in a way that is easy to read and understand. I have no doubts that this will be a golden tool for teaching the masses what melancholy is and what it is not by diving right in to the thought process of the melancholic person and step by step leads readers to the truth hidden behind the emotion from beginning to end.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys psychology, sociology or are just plain curious as to what is between the pages of this eye catching title.

Thank you to netgalley and the School of Life for providing an e-copy for me to read so I can share my honest opinions on this material.

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melancholy – (n.) sadness that lasts for a long period of time, often without any obvious reason.

This is how melancholy is defined in the dictionary, but while you are reading this book, you can see in fact how much melancholy is intertwined with our everyday lives and in any walks of life. The idea behind this book is to show us that melancholy isn't a scary thing, it is something that can help us become a better person and maybe show our artistic aptitude or cooking talent.

This would be more of a serious read, there are no riveting plot twists or enthralling love stories, there are encounters of real life people, mainly artists and their vent of melancholy through their art. There are notions of hobbies or other every day activities that can be connected to melancholy. There is something in nature that can remind us of it as well.

If you are ready to get to know melancholy in person, check this read out.

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A insightful guide into the melancholic state of mind. It details the various types of melancholy as well as the different states of mind. It was such an interesting read and look into melancholy. Filled with artwork, photos, and explanations, and just a really great consoling guide.

*Thanks Netgalley and The School of Life for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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