HAPPY FOR YOU
By Claire Stanford
“If a easy algorithm might let you know how blissful you have been — objectively how blissful — wouldn’t you wish to know?” a personality asks early in “Joyful for You,” Claire Stanford’s engrossing and intelligent first novel. Evelyn Kominsky Kumamoto, the ebook’s deeply ambivalent narrator, isn’t so positive. Her voice carries us by questions on happiness, expertise’s position in our lives, the significance of the physique and the way one may discover a sense of contentment and belonging on the earth.
We meet Evelyn as she takes a go away of absence from her philosophy Ph.D. program, the place she was struggling to complete a dissertation on “the mind-body downside.” She arrives within the shiny land of tech at what’s humorously known as “the third-most-popular web firm.” It’s Evelyn’s new boss, Dr. Luce, who poses the above rhetorical query throughout a pump-up speech to launch the corporate’s “happiness venture.” The aim for Evelyn and the small analysis staff she’s becoming a member of is to quantify this emotion, and ship it to shoppers within the type of an easy-to-use app.
The venture doesn’t, nevertheless, assist to alleviate Evelyn’s personal equivocation about her private satisfaction and route in life. If something, as she turns into financially depending on the corporate (which pays “a number of components” greater than grad faculty), she finds herself additional disconnected from and more and more skeptical of the outward optimism of these round her. This contains her white boyfriend, Jamie, a happy-go-lucky authorities worker whose marriage proposal Evelyn can solely reply to within the second with, “I don’t know.” Her personal racial identification provides to this sense of disconnection; her father is Japanese and her mom, who died when Evelyn was a youngster, was white. She relates much less to different folks than she does to the weird and missed animals within the nature documentary she binge-watches, known as “Misfits!”: the bigheaded mole rat, the minute leaf chameleon, the kakapo.
Stanford captures the attract, absurdity and menace of company areas with wit and levity. “I used to be proud that the third-most-popular web firm needed me,” Evelyn thinks; “I used to be excited to really feel helpful.” As a part of her new job, she attends the Fifth Annual World Happiness Summit, seemingly based mostly on an actual occasion known as the World Happiness Summit. She goes to a creepy laughing seminar, experiences sensory deprivation with out revelation, sits on a panel throughout which males speak over her, and meets her friends out there to promote happiness. One describes an power bar as “380 energy, 12 grams of fats, 18 grams of protein and limitless risk.”