Books: Kirillov's Complaint

LYING, DESPAIR, JEALOUSY, ENVY, SEX, SUICIDE, DRUGS, AND THE GOOD LIFE

by LESLIE H. FARBER

232 pages. Basic Books. $10.

That quintessential 19th century optimist W.E. Henley—who can ever forget or forgive him?—wrote the unflappable lines that still seem to embroider a motto on his age: "I am the master of my fate;/ I am the captain of my soul." The world, it appeared in those innocent times, belonged to the romantic individualist with a whim of iron. Even pessimists like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche celebrated the indomitable will. Not to mention Horatio Alger Jr.

Then...

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