In THE HAPPINESS PLAYLIST, author and musician Mark Mallman careens his way through days and nights of unsettled energy, aiming for meaning, peace and experience, after the death of his mother. Millman resides in Minneapolis and his book is a stream-of-consciousness narrative—moment-to-moment, thought-to-thought, anything that comes into his head, along with what he does on his own and with friends. At its best, the style is reminiscent of Kerouac, Hemingway, and Bukowski. Mallman is capable of being jokey and sarcastic, but then the prose will cut through the patter, becoming quite moving in odd, surrealistic ways: a crock-pot becomes a symbol of loss, a reminder of a parent now gone. An ended relationship with a girlfriend, now in the iffy stage, is seen through the chattering prism of a freezing “Adult Night” at the zoo.
A series of mini-adventures keeps the THE HAPPINESS PLAYLIST entertaining: a Sleep Apnea test, a dog-walk, dinners out, musical events, a band rehearsal, a Thanksgiving journey to visit a father in another state, now alone after a mother’s death. Accompanying the adventures, of course, is music—the “playlist.” The age of the reader and taste in music will determine how much the list resonates, but there’s a wide range. Mallman tries to keep a sense of innocence and wonder through the book. He’s not there to judge, but to experience. The result can seem juvenile, of which the narrator is painfully aware: “Later, I wash the dishes. There are no clean towels, so I dry them with a shirt. When my Dad was my age, he was married with two boys and a house. I wonder if he dried dishes with a shirt.”
The simple description of the author’s journey is that he uses music to heal his wounds, but that summation is only part of it, and doesn’t do the book the justice to which it’s entitled. Mallman also leans on his “tribe”—friends and fellow artists, girlfriends and colleagues, his father—as well as his own creativity and his tremendous ability to look with humor and detachment on his frozen environment and the healing possibilities in his own head. The result is an uplifting memoir that earns its wings honestly, with humor and perception.
THE HAPPINESS PLAYLIST by Mark Mallman is a moving, entertaining, and well-written reflection on the art of living, music, grief, and joy.
~Dave Eisenstark for IndieReader