In the introduction of Jacqueline Novak’s book, “How to Weep in Public: Feeble offerings on depression from someone who knows,” the New York-based comedian does not claim to offer any beneficial exercises or relief from what a reader may be going through — she simply offers to keep them company. Novak said that’s her way of communicating to readers: “It’s cool.”
Novak is a stand-up comedian, but her book surpasses what can be conveyed through a 20-minute routine on stage. Her writing style and the concept of providing shelter for her readers are what make this book on depression stand out.
In an interview with amNewYork, Novak said she began writing for the book during a particularly depressing time in her life. As someone who writes frequently, she noticed how her depression was trickling into whatever she attempted to create.
“Instead of trying to hide it or transcend it, I thought ‘How can I make this time useful?’” she said.
Novak found comfort in the idea of writing from a place of depression in hopes of one day speaking to other people who find themselves in the same position. She hopes that “years from now it might be like a message in a bottle received by someone on the island of their depression.”
“How to Weep in Public” is divided into four parts:
- “How to be a depressive-in-training as a child” (See Page 11)
- “How to cultivate your depression as a young adult” (See Page 83)
- “How to become a depressed grown up” (See Page 129)
- “How to take your fully activated depression into the wider world … and (gasp) go outside.” (See Page 167)
Novak aims to provide a safe space where people will not feel pressured to do anything other than “lean into” their depression, she said in the book. Novak aspires to “give people a chance to take a break from even trying to feel better,” and instill a strategy of mindfulness for readers to be present in the moment while going through an especially difficult time.
What we learned from “How to Weep in Public”:
1. “Ways to see yourself, other than as a useless lump”:
“A puddle. You know that thing about how your body is 80 percent water? It could be interesting for a few minutes to really get that through your head and then lie there and feel yourself as what you really are: a puddle.” (See Chapter 5, Page 48 )
2. “Ways to avoid charming your therapist”:
“Do not quote song lyrics.” (See Chapter 9, Page 93)
3. “Things to love about the floor”:
“In case of fire, you are less likely to die of smoke inhalation than your neighbors who are up and about. You won’t even have to stop, drop, and roll. Just roll.” (See Chapter 17, Page 146)
4. “Tips for crying in the shower”:
“Remember, you will one day look back on the darkest moments of your depression, and those crying-in-the-shower episodes will sing out to you, almost proudly, as if to say, ‘We were the worst!’ Be glad to have them under your belt.” (Chapter 18, Page 153)
5. “Ways to exude zest for life despite lacking a will to live”:
“Carry an ice-cream cone covered with rainbow sprinkles. Eat it if you like; it doesn’t matter.” (Chapter 21, Page 180)
Celebrate Novak’s book launch at Villain (50 N 3rd St., Brooklyn) at 8 p.m. on March 17. You can also catch her the following night at the Rubin Museum where she will be in conversation with Dr. Douglas Mennin at 7 p.m. The conversation on depression will be followed by a book signing.