Tag Archives: depression

Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Where did I get this book? The library.

Where did I get this book? The library.

I know Felicia Day primarily from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Joss Whedon mini-masterpiece Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, her web show The Guild and guest turns doing things like bowling with Chris Hardwick. She always seemed like an incredibly well-adjusted super nerd, living the super nerd dream. In reality, she has suffered her share of ups and downs, and worked incredibly hard to forge her own unique path to stardom.

In this engaging and sometimes hilarious memoir, Day describes her highly unusual childhood. Haphazardly homeschooled from an early age, she had the freedom to pursue her interests and the help of a series of tutors to cultivate her talents as a singer and violinist. She also had virtually no social interaction with kids her own age. In a way, this was freeing; basically, she could be as weird as she wanted with little feedback from her peers to shut her down. On the other hand, it was lonely and isolating, until she found internet friends through one of the first online fantasy games, Ultima.

Day entered college at 16 on a violin scholarship and double-majored in violin and math. She still lived a largely sheltered life throughout her college years, because she was younger than everyone else, lived at home, and spent all her daylight hours either practicing violin or studying. When she graduated, she went to California to pursue a career as an actor, and for the first time her work ethic and superstar grades were no help. She was making a living, but not achieving her dream of success.

That’s when her brother introduced her to World of Warcraft. She quickly went from playing the game as a fun stress reliever to obsessively devoting all her waking hours to it. Her addiction cost her a significant amount of time and emotional energy but in the end she was able to break free, and she used her experience to write a pilot for The Guild, about a group of hardcore WoW gamers. When TV execs passed on the script for the pilot, Day recruited friends and volunteers to make the show happen.

Although the show enjoyed several years of success, when it finally came to an end, Day had difficulty accepting the inevitable. She recounts her struggle with burn-out stress, depression and suicidal ideation. When she finally sought help, it turned out that her problems had at least some physical basis: an undiagnosed thyroid condition, fibroids, and an unpleasant esophogeal problem. She notes how messed up it is that she was willing to see a doctor for physical problems when she’d ignored her emotional and mental health for so long. The good news: she is feeling much better these days and is back to her old creative self (hence this book.)

As an epilogue, Day addresses some of the horrific bullying and harassment that have taken place as part of the whole GamerGate nightmare. I am no gamer myself, but it is bizarre to me that anyone would seek to exclude people from an activity they enjoy or try to create an atmosphere of fear in what should be an inclusive community.

Day is a deft and engaging writer, willing to relate even the most awkward and embarrassing anecdotes. And Joss Whedon wrote the foreword! Reason enough to read it right there.

Genre: Geek celebrity memoir.

Read it if: You’ve ever faced major obstacles to achieving your creative dreams; you’ve ever felt like the biggest geek in the room; you’ve ever become a little bit too dependent on the internet (I still miss you, Farmville!)

Skip it if: You have never heard of Joss Whedon, World of Warcraft, Nichelle Nichols, Supernatural, or ComicCon; you dislike curse words and/or fun with Photoshop.

Movie-worthy: Mmm, no. But maybe someone should start a “Behind the Geek” bio series, like “Behind the Music” but with more cosplay. I would totally watch that!




Review: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

HausfrauThe cover of Hausfrau is eye-catching and alluring, a bright bouquet of flowers in shades of lurid red and pink, fading into vaguely sinister shadows.

Anna is the Hausfrau of the title, which means “housewife” in German. She has lived as an expat spouse in Switzerland for nine years, over the course of which she has become completely dependent on her Swiss husband, Bruno. She has no job, no bank account, no hobbies, no true friends. She has three children–two little boys and a newborn daughter–but her mother-in-law, Ursula, is always around to help her care for them.

Access to free unlimited childcare may be the most important aspect of Anna’s living situation, since it’s what enables her to embark on multiple loveless affairs. As Anna herself later notes, if she self-medicated with food instead of sex, she’d be a very large woman.  She is clearly very depressed, numb to every possibility of action or change, and lets herself be swept into these affairs as a way to feel some kind of pleasure, even if it’s fleeting and followed by self-disgust.

Anna’s main character trait is her overwhelming passivity. She knows this, and so does her psychoanalyst (who, in my opinion, should have her license revoked.) She never decides anything, she just flows along letting things happen to her, ignoring the potential consequences. Of course, eventually she must get her comeuppance and it happens in a particularly horrible way.

This book was interesting for me primarily because I’ve lived as an expat in Switzerland. While I can vouch for the incomprehensibility of Schweizer Deutsch, otherwise my experience was very, very different. I feel sorry for Anna–living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, blind to anything but her own numb despair.

Genre: Super depressing expat fiction.

Read it if: Your two favorite books are Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina; you would prefer to believe life in Switzerland is pretty miserable; you think happy endings are for wusses.

Skip it if: You prefer to avoid sex scenes, graphic language, violence toward women, etc; you need a little joy somewhere in your fiction; you are thinking of accompanying your spouse to an overseas assignment in Switzerland.

Movie-worthy: I can see it already–a Helvetic twist on Belle de Jour, only not as upbeat.