The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

S. & S. Mar. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781501153648. $19.99. REF
Despite its title, Koenig’s first book is not about sadness, nor is it mostly about faulty or funny feelings, like Eden Sher’s The Emotionary: A Dictionary of Words That Don’t Exist for Feelings That Do. Rather, focused on longing, awareness, and evanescence, it enshrines Koenig’s well-regarded blog (of the same title) of invented, repurposed, or obsolescent but redefined words forming a glossary of emotions. Expanding “the palette of language,” Koenig finely dissects and names “even the faintest quirks of the human condition.” Six chapters provide minimal category structures, with themes including the outer world, the inner world, others, friends, time, and meaning. Koenig offers pronunciation help and wide-ranging, semi-serious etymologies. Some coinages will produce a fond smile (plata rasa: that lulling dishwasher sound); others, wistful or anxious recognition (slipfast: the longing to slide through unnoticed). Entries are usually brief, but some expand into reflective mini-essays (morii: the wish to capture the ephemeral). A couple might elicit a wince, but most are agile, erudite, poetic, clever, even witty (aubadoir: that predawn feeling).
VERDICT For philosophers, language lovers, novelists, and fantasists, this perspective-expanding little book offers abundant ambedo (“a momentary trance of emotional clarity”).
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