The book is a drolly pessimistic and vaguely misanthropic account that gives it a unity of voice, of view, and of several interlaced themes: the scarcity of good, that most of happiness comes in the morally questionable form of Schadenfreude, or is experienced mostly as relief that some expected bad thing did not materialize. It deals extensively with those tinges of ominousness that accompany good luck, and the related widespread belief, or feeling in the gut, that people’s mere desires and wishes provoke the gods to thwart their wishes. Are good things subject to a law of conservation, so that they must always be paid for and sum out at just about zero or less? Why is there no scarcity, in contrast, in the economy of evil? Certain topics the author can never seem to avoid make encores: revenge and getting even, paying back what one owes, competitiveness, humiliation, and disgust with human embodiment. These large themes will be spiced with particular attention to killing messengers bearing both good and bad tidings, the decline of everything (including the author’s mind and body), an occasional eye-gouging, until people face what it means to eat at the table of one’s lord as a historical and religious matter from texts ranging from the Bible to medieval matter, right up to issues of the narcissistic present.
Outrageous Fortune: Gloomy Reflections on Luck and Life