It doesn’t seem like a bad time to be Matt Haig. He’s written multiple bestselling books, including the reputation-making memoir Reasons to Stay Alive about his own experience of severe depression. His latest, The Midnight Library, is proving impossible for everyone but Richard Osman and JK Rowling to knock out of the bestseller charts. There’s a movie adaptation of one of his novels on the way. And we now know that his high-profile admirers run all the way to royalty (well, ex-royalty): Meghan and Harry chose him as one of the guests for their holiday edition of their podcast ‘Archewell’, to offer ‘inspiration, perspective, and reflection’ for these difficult Covid times.
On the podcast, Haig talks affectingly about his own struggles with depression. But for the most part, his ‘inspiration, perspective, and reflection’ sounds like this: asked what he’d tell the future about this nightmare era, Haig said, very solemnly:
‘The world woke up…We’ve been given a chance to change. [Portentous pause] Only you know if we did.’
The only thing more excruciatingly banal than this is the way Meghan murmurs ‘so true’ at the end of every contribution.
Banality is Matt Haig’s thing. On Twitter, he offers pearls of consolation like: ‘don’t forget to breathe today‘, ‘Maybe music is the answer‘ and ‘Today will not be the ideal day. It will just be a day. And you will just be a person. And that’s okay.’
His problem is that he’s trapped in the strange afterlife of the role model. Reasons made him famous because the story of his breakdown and recovery was reassuring, and his honesty was brave and compelling: people related to it. But having been anointed as a sort of secular priest of mental health, he has to keep delivering more of the same.