10 Delightfully Surly Books for the Relentless Pessimist

You know that feeling you get when it happens to be raining outside, and everything just feels dark and grey and you’re suddenly hit by a bad case of nihilism, like what’s even the point? If you’re watching the American election as closely as we are, there’s basically no avoiding it. There’s no better way to ride out this wave of pessimism with a good book about how beautiful and yet shitty everything is all at once. Grab a blanket, make yourself a hot cup of whatever, and curl up with some of these delightfully surly books. They are lovable precisely for how ridiculously pessimistic they are. Here’s a perfect pairing to your sour doom and gloom du jour. Just remember not to take these too seriously, or else your rampant fatalism will make you very unpopular at parties.

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Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

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Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

“Having always lived in fear of being surprised by the worst, I have tried in every circumstance to get a head start, flinging myself into misfortune long before it occurred…I have never taken myself for a being. A non-citizen, a marginal type, a nothing who exists only by the excess, by the superabundance of his nothingness.” ― Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born.

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Charles Bukowski, Factotum

“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?” – Charles Bukowski, Factotum

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Alice Weaver Flaherty, The Midnight Disease

“The scientist in me worries that my happiness is nothing more than a symptom of bipolar disease, hypergraphia from a postpartum disorder. The rest of me thinks that artificially splitting off the scientist in me from the writer in me is actually a kind of cultural bipolar disorder, one that too many of us have. The scientist asks how I can call my writing vocation and not addiction. I no longer see why I should have to make that distinction. I am addicted to breathing in the same way. I write because when I don’t, it is suffocating. I write because something much larger than myself comes into me that suffuses the page, the world, with meaning. Although I constantly fear that what I am writing teeters at the edge of being false, this force that drives me cannot be anything but real, or nothing will ever be real for me again.” ― Alice Weaver Flaherty, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block and the Creative Brain

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H.P. Lovecraft, The Complete Fiction

“Contrary to what you may assume, I am not a pessimist but an indifferentist- that is, I don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cosmos gives a damn one way or the other about the especial wants and ultimate welfare of mosquitoes, rats, lice, dogs, men, horses, pterodactyls, trees, fungi, dodos, or other forms of biological energy.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

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Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

“Of my conception I know only what you know of yours. It occurred in darkness and I was unconsenting… By some bleak alchemy what had been mere unbeing becomes death when life is mingled with it.” ― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

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Luís de Camões, The Collected Lyric Poems

“The dream of the future you see dissolves… And with time, so does the apprehension. The world under the sun is no exception, and all you see around you evolves. New traits and things familiar can be sensed, but futile is hope without fruition. The grief you knew begets no vision. The happiness you felt becomes regret. Winter fades, and takes its cold and storm. Spring revives the world with love and warmth. But still, the law: All things decay and age. Vanity itself won’t dry your tears. And so you fear, as your time draws near: The world will turn…but never change.” ~ Luís Vaz de Camões, The Collected Lyric Poems

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Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” ― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

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Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Natalia Borecka

Natalia is the editor in chief and publisher of Lone Wolf Magazine. She founded the publication in 2012.

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