cover image Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

John Koenig. Simon & Schuster, $19.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5366-2

Koenig (Charismata) brings his website of the same name to the page in this whimsical speculative dictionary of “new words for emotions.” His definitions are broken into six sections: “Between living and dreaming” introduces the word for the longing to quit one’s job for a “simple life” (trumspringa) and for being proud of a scar (scabulous), while “The interior wilderness” covers the desire to care less and relax (liberosis). In “Montage of attractions,” fensiveness is “a knee-jerk territorial reaction when a friend displays a casual interest in one of your obsessions,” and “Faces in a crowd” covers hailbound, the compulsion to wave to strangers. In “Boats against the current,” zenosyne is “the feeling that time is getting faster,” while in “Roll the bones,” elosy is the fear of big life changes. While most are straightforward definitions, some are “featured” and come in the form of essays on the feeling the term is meant to evoke. Unfortunately, Koenig sometimes slips into platitudes (in his entry for alazia, the fear that one can’t change, he writes that “even if it’s true that you’re no longer flexible enough to be anybody, you might be getting strong enough to finally be yourself”). Still, fans of the site will find this appropriately diverting. Agent: Heather Karpas, ICM Partners. (Nov.)