1943 happy-zombie novel: I Am Thinking of My Darling

William Smith, proprietor of Hang Fire Books, reviewed "A really fascinating novel" from 1943 called I Am Thinking of My Darling by Vincent McHugh. I just bought a copy on Amazon for 12 cents.

thinking-of-darling.jpgOriginally published in 1943, the book is about a happiness virus that spreads across New York City like a plague. The disease makes the afflicted lose their inhibitions, act like they perpetually have 2-3 drinks under their belt (without slurring or clumsiness, they're sharper in fact), and extremely resistant to doing anything they don't want to do.

Sounds more like a paradise than a plague right? Problem is that only 10-20% of the populace feel like doing their jobs anymore so law enforcement, public safety, garbage collection etc, go right out the window. And–though the author's description of crowd euphoria is appealing and not conservative or reactionary–some people's euphoric impulses are dangerous to themselves and others.

The protagonist of the novel is a civil servant who's promoted to acting Mayor when the former gets the virus and heads back to Westchester to build model trains. He loves the city in all its particulars and he loves his job (which is why he keeps going even when he gets the virus himself). His wife is an actress who evades him for the entire novel (because her bliss is to take on a series of elaborate character parts) and the chase takes us on a grand tour of the uninhibited city.

The novel feels extremely contemporary and realistic in the city's response to a disaster (so much that I almost put it down after the 50th motion was put before a board, argued about, voted and passed). And the author's descriptions of euphoria and ideas about what happiness means are entertaining and thought provoking.

The book is basically a zombie novel except instead of a walking corpse the infected turn into Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby.

I Am Thinking of My Darling (Hang Fire Books)