Way back when, Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin, warbling a wonderfully depressing little song called "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted", uttered the following line:

"Happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion."

And a lot of people might actually have agreed with that sentiment; enough of them bought the single (Soul 35022, 1966) to propel it to #7 on the pop chart, #6 on the R&B chart. This was a time when most 45s were presumably bought by young people, and as a general rule, no one seems to embrace depression quite so enthusiastically as adolescents.

Yet here I am, thirty-four years later, still haunted by Ruffin's prefab desolation. Maybe it's just that it's a darn good song — Dave Marsh's list of the 1001 greatest singles ranks this one at #241 — but maybe there's something else at work here. Ruffin's bad dream, if you take the lyrics at face value, is about nothing more than the consequences of a failed love affair: pretty horrible stuff, yes, but not enough to cause ongoing paralysis of the spirit. With some notable exceptions (can you say "Ophelia"?), most people survive this sort of thing. Even I have.

So I must be finding subtext here, even if producer/writer team Mickey Stevenson and William Weatherspoon hadn't intended it. Am I suffering from some form of anhedonia? I don't think I buy it. The true anhedonic, if I understand the concept correctly, doesn't have any connection to pleasure at all; anyone who's