Who, Me? Spiteful?

Today, I learned a terrific new word (to me): schadenfreude, which refers to the unsettling and unwholesome joy one feels when hearing of the misfortunes of another.


It is, unfortunately, a condition I can occasionally relate to, when misfortune befalls others who have gotten More Than Their Fair Share, in the eye of the jealous child-self that occasionally throws a nasty tantrum when others appear to be effortlessly grabbing the brass rings I'm unable to reach. My good-girl self knows better, and I always make an effort to act appropriately while burning with shame about my baser emotions.

But at the moment, it feels pretty good to know it's common enough to have a name.

It's also common enough to have an "anthem," in the form of a hilarious poem by Clive James called "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered," which I first read about in Anne Lamott's hilarious Bird by Bird.

If James' poem doesn't spark at least a smile of recognition, I'm not sure I want to know you. Here's the opening:

"The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased
In vast quantities it has been remaindered.
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs..."

So today, I'm thanking the creators of the word "schadenfreude" and Clive James for making me feeling human. After all, owning up to one's less admirable qualities is the first step toward mining them in fiction.


Joni Rodgers said…
The "Schadenfreude" song from Avenue Q cracks me up:

"Schadenfreude is a German word for happiness at the misfortune of others."

"Happiness at the misfortune of others? That IS German!"

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