Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack

Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack

2016 Staff Favorite

My only proof that Life Breaks In was written with an audience in mind is in Cappello's play with language. Depression, for instance, used to be known as "the exactingly physical, 'jaw fall'; or the bluntly negating 'unlust.'" Otherwise, Cappello's most circuitous and literate account of our moods' what and wherabouts is fluctuant and unconcerned as mood itself. "Depression," it turns out, "is not so much a mood as it is a refusal to give oneself over to mood's unpredictable changeability." Nuance and amorphism are key, not just to figuring out who we are, but that we are. Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" plays an important role, as well. Life Breaks In does what the essay claims to do: it tries, before it knows, and in doing so instills in us desire to try, too. To try what, exactly? That's up to you.


Some books start at point A, take you by the hand, and carefully walk you to point B, and on and on.

This is not one of those books. This book is about mood, and how it works in and with us as complicated, imperfectly self-knowing beings existing in a world that impinges and infringes on us, but also regularly suffuses us with beauty and joy and wonder. You don't write that book as a linear progression--you write it as a living, breathing, richly associative, and, crucially, active, investigation. Or at least you do if you're as smart and inventive as Mary Cappello.

What is a mood? How do we think about and understand and describe moods and their endless shadings? What do they do to and for us, and how can we actively generate or alter them? These are all questions Cappello takes up as she explores mood in all its manifestations: we travel with her from the childhood tables of "arts and crafts" to mood rooms and reading rooms, forgotten natural history museums and 3-D View-Master fairytale tableaux; from the shifting palette of clouds and weather to the music that defines us and the voices that carry us. The result is a book as brilliantly unclassifiable as mood itself, blue and green and bright and beautiful, funny and sympathetic, as powerfully investigative as it is richly contemplative.

"I'm one of those people who mistrusts a really good mood," Cappello writes early on. If that made you nod in recognition, well, maybe you're one of Mary Cappello's people; you owe it to yourself to crack Life Breaks In and see for sure.

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