Daily Negations

Book Reviews | Jan 1st, 2008

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Author: John S. Hall
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Genre: Humor?
Pages: 365
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link

For many, the beginning of the year means the first tear-away page from a dopey desk calendar full of life-affirming maxims. Or perhaps the scanning of a first page of an overpriced day-by-day self-help book filled with hollow pick-me-ups, ancient or religious quotes that read like fortune cookies, or annoying exclamations to cheer you on as you tackle those just-out-of-reach resolutions.

But none of those tabletop books or calendars truly face the bleak reality of this oppressive and soul-crushing world we create for ourselves. Until now.*

Daily Negations by John S. Hall, King Missile frontman and spoken word giant, is the anti-self-help book I’d always wanted to write if I weren’t so paralyzingly lazy, apathetic, and untalented. It is pure, distilled self-loathing and it is genius.

Like its disgustingly cheery counterparts, each page of Negations is a brief statement for that day. But ordinarily you’d read a Stuart Smalley-ish piece of tripe like “I deserve good things. I refuse to beat myself up. I am attractive person. I am fun to be with.” But here, well, let’s reprint some examples:

January 3: “I don’t really change much from day to day, or month to month, or year to year. The bitterness, anger, selfishness, foolishness, pettiness – all the feelings that I had last year, I will have them this year too. Today, I should take notice of my bad habits. They are proof that I don’t learn, I don’t change, I don’t get better.”

January 11: “Yesterday, I tried and failed. Today, I will try and fail. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.”

February 10: “I can’t face this day. I don’t have that much to do, but I don’t want to do anything, because I don’t want to, and I can’t. There is too much to do. Anything is too much to do. With my attitude, nothing is possible.

Over-the-top pessimism? Hilarious black humor? Or just a dash of the dark side of reality for when you’re feeling a bit too good during the day? However you look at it, the execution is wonderfully poetic, which leads to some bittersweetness. Because even if you read and laugh, the lines are too genuine to have been written as simple parody to the Khalil Gibrans out there. You get the sense that Hall really dug deep into his dark place for this one.

It’s hard to tell where this book lies between fun novelty and soul-baring work of confessional art. To decide, you’ll have to pick it up and take it one day at a time.

* Actually, this was published in the beginning of 2007, but like a good boy I only read one a day, and therefore it took me a year to review this.

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