Though I sometimes mocked the scented-candle-pushing brand of happiness building, I discovered that there is something nice about working in an office with a candle burning. It's like seeing snow falling outside the window or having a dog snoozing on the carpet beside you. It's a kind of silent presence in the room and very pleasant.
Fortunately I am all stocked up with 'silent presences' to last me through the winter:
"...I came up with an idea: two people having an affair in Manhattan...I thought it would be fun to try to think through the logistics of how two people in the same social circle would keep their affair a secret and to write about New York City...wrote my first sentence: "When she thought about it later, Emily realized that she knew exactly when her affair with Michael Harmon had its start: about 8:00 p.m. on the night of September 18, at a cocktail party at Lisa and Andrew Kessel's apartment."
Now, I am totally breaking one of the Happiness rules in the book by being critical, but COME ON. A guy and a lady having an affair in Manhattan? That is the most interesting plot you can come up with? Maaaybe I would give you a pass if your job wasn't as an author, but IT IS. Or maybe if the story you're writing wasn't going to be talked about in a book, but IT WAS. I mean, for the love of God, could you have at least picked a different city? San Francisco? Detroit? Toronto? And I know you live in New York, so it's what you know best, but throw a rock in a bookstore and you will hit at least 18 books that take place in New York City. For the love of God, branch out. And an affair between two upper middle class people who connect at a cocktail party? AAAAGGGGHH SO BORED. This is your chance to write about anything! You're not going to publish it! It's just a fun project! Have a little FUN.
My final verdict on The Happiness Project was that while many of the ideas were sound, I wish a different person had written the book. A person with a different life and different tastes. I know that sounds mean, and that's because it is, but I would have loved someone with a better sense of humor at the very least.
And while we're on the subject of things that are titled "The [Enter Something Here] Project"** I would like to briefly say that I am sooo disappointed by The Mindy Project. I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be Bridget Jones meets Miranda. But I can't STAND any of the characters, especially Danny Castellano. Is it because every thing I've ever seen Chris Messina in casts him as a huge asshole, including this show? Probably. Here's an example. In The Mindy Kaling Project this week she was being weighed by her love interest/friend Danny as part of her gynecological exam. The scene has Danny add waaay more weight on the old-fashioned mechanical beam scales--that at least in my doctor's office, were replaced by digital scales YEARS AGO--than she actually weighs, in order to shame her and SUCCEEDS. In order to go on she has to take on an alter ego persona that of course, includes the name Beyonce. Har-de-har-har. You want a good weight joke, feel free to refer to Miranda, which is also written and created by its lead actress:
A man approaches her in a bar and asks her how she's doing. Her response: "When I'm naked in bed and roll over, my breasts clap."
Another (also related to breasts and also said to a stranger when he approaches her): "The other day I weighed my breasts to see how much they'd cost to post. To heavy to go second class if you know what I mean!"
I swear not all the jokes in that show are about her breasts. The point is, there are ways to joke about things that endear you to characters, not make you hate them more than you already do, or make you think they have the self-esteem of a thimble. Also, The Mindy Project theme song? Kill me. It sounds like a sample of a valley girl gagging laid over a rejected-Sex-and-the-City-imitation-show theme song. You know, like Cashmere Mafia or Lipstick Jungle. Honestly the only redeeming factor of the whole show is the much under-used and under-appreciated former MADtv cast member Ike Barinholtz.
But all that griping aside, I sincerely wish the best for Mindy Kaling with her show, and I hope it does really well so she can go on to do other, better work (or that the show itself gets better). I mean, I'm not publishing books about my attempts to lead a happier life, so why should I be criticizing Gretchen something-something for writing a few boring, overdone ideas in The Happiness Project? And I'm not writing and starring in my own TV show, so how can I accuse Mindy Kaling of doing a bad job at it? I think we can all agree I have no right to be negative towards either of these ladies. I just wish I hadn't wasted so many hours (or half-hours in Mindy's case) on their particular works of art that have Project in the title.
**My friend Ian told me hated anything with this kind of title. If only I'd listened to him.