Billy McCall, 96 pgs, Bunny Ears Publishing, [email protected], $10
It can be uncomfortable trying to evaluate books premised on authenticity. Though we are bound to reject some parts, can we avoid invalidating the very essence of the expresser? Thinking about Four-Year Depression by Billy McCall is such an experience. Deeply personal, it reads like a diary in some parts and an unfiltered stream of consciousness in others. McCall, winner of BP Zine of the Year in 2019, walks through both the joys of his recent life — his marriage, his family, his projects — and some stark points of pain — his mother’s inability to retire, his brother’s addiction, his own depression. These are interwoven with socio-political commentary on the election and presidency of Donald Trump.
“Accepting Trump as president has not been easy, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve had an underlying sense of depression every day since he took office,” McCall reflects. “Those feelings of depression and anger became much more confusing after I found out that members of my family voted for him.”
While the authentic tone is refresh- ing, some aspects are frustrating. Some suspicious anecdotes and seeming endorsements of various conspiracy theories (Hillary Clinton having a jilted lover killed, for example) are sprinkled throughout. But McCall’s smart, and he often calls himself out on some weird thoughts — this self-awareness is welcome. By the time most readers will be questioning whether they really care about McCall’s opinion, he offers a reminder, “Of course you do, this whole book is filled with my opinions!”
In tense situations, it can be easy to quickly label things and people as “good” or “bad.” But these are mental shortcuts we take to avoid the work of understanding. McCall sometimes hates on the objects of his anger (Trump for one), but he shows his work and lands often on nuance and acceptance.
I’d be interested in more works like this one. Books of intimate accounts, case studies of what goes into understanding the people close to us when they deeply baffle and confuse us or, you know, vote for Trump.