Are you a dead serious pessimist or scowling nihilist? Here is a quotation book for you that is truly the "Book of Psalms and Proverbs" for the disciple of pessimism/nihilism. There are a lot of quotation books in the market aimed at the pessimist, cynic, and jaded individual, but this is the only book that really takes itself seriously. Most "pessimistic" quotation books do a decent job of compiling quotes, but they are too often presented in a light-hearted, apologetic, or tongue-in-cheek mood. Many of them are also too short with large typefaces and tend to rehash the same old cliched quotes. For examples, see 1) The Book of Poisonous Quotes, 2) Pessimisms: Famous (and Not So Famous) Observations, Quotations, Thoughts, and Ruminations on What to Expect When You're Expecting the Worst, 3) Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?, and 4) The Big Curmudgeon: 2,500 Outrageously Irreverent Quotations from World-Class Grumps and Cantankerous Commentators.
I've read all of these and they are pretty much fluff compared to Alan R. Pratt's "The Dark Side." It is lengthy (over 1,000 quotes), scholarly, expertly arranged with powerful commentary, and containing the darkest and bleakest quotations I've ever encountered. In addition, the book opens with a tour-de-force chapter introducing and justifying nihilism, followed by an interview with an anonymous nihilist, a college professor who states his case very passionately.
This book is well-organized, arranged chronologically and subarranged by authors, effectively collating together excerpts from major figures like Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Twain, Nietzsche, Celine, Camus, etc. The editor and compiler, Pratt, provides his own unabashedly grim titles and compelling introductory remarks to the historical periods and figures. His chapter titles are stern but enticing and a good indicator of what you can expect the book to cover; essentially beginning with the Egyptians and ending with Samuel Beckett:
1. Prehistory and the Preclassical: In the Beginning, Nothing
2. Classical Greece: Cosmos or Chaos?
3. The Hellenistic World: Back to a Dismal Future
4. The Old Testament: The Lesson of Job
5. The Romans: Bittersweet Memories Amid Amorphous Decay
6. The Medieval World: Very Dark Ages, Indeed
7. The Renaissance: The Rebirth of Angst
8. Baroque Extravagance, Incredulity, and Pessimism
9. The Enlightenment... Without Radiance
10. Romanticism: A Quixotic Quest for Contentment in Confusion
11. Realism, Decadence, and the Fin de Siecle: Is this all there is?
12. The Condition Moderne and the Age of Anxiety
13. Postmodernism: One Step Beyond
Unlike so many other quote books, Pratt does not water down the severity of his topic with cute drawings, sarcastic commentary, or introductory chapters attempting to be humorous. Pratt is somber and devoutly nihilist without sounding pretentious or "emo". He actually writes really well: clear yet erudite, articulate yet blunt, and always convincing when he emphasizes the darker undercurrents of various historical periods.
To better illustrate Pratt's aim with this book, I quote a paragraph from the preface:
"Over a thousand excerpts representing nearly four hundred individuals from antiquity to the present, from the pre-Socratics to the current antifoundationalists, address mankind's contingent nature and cultivate the view that human existence is, at best, amusingly trivial or, more likely, horrifyingly meaningless. The remarks of this disparate group of artists, philosophers, skeptics, malcontents, and misanthropes range from maniacal celebration to contempt to expressions of abject resignation. The material is taken from speeches, poems, letters, novels, essays, anecdotes, dissertations, conversations, manifestos, and some general rantings. Although a select few of the individuals quoted eventually found some form of salvation or promise for existence, only their darkest thoughts are included here in an effort to maintain nihilistic purity."
Bottom line: This book is the finest compilation of its kind. Pratt does not follow the common formula in pessimistic quote books of being apologetic or facetious. There is a sullen mood and forceful austerity to the presentation that may strengthen the pessimist's conviction, or exacerbate depressive tendencies. I usually read a couple pages of quotes per day; anymore than that and the gloom could get overwhelming. Fair warning: anyone not inclined towards misanthropy and nihilism may find their hopes and ideals crushed by the quotes in this book.