Language is the way we express ourselves. It is the cornerstone of society, the way we relate to one another, and how we define and describe our experiences. Part portmanteau and part Rich Hall’s vintage Snigglets series, Eden Sher’s The Emotionary defines feelings we experience but for which no word exists. Whether we “losstracize” (loss + ostracize = rejecting the support of others during a time of grief) or erect a “vulnercade” (vulnerable + barricade = creating a barrier around our heart so we cannot accept love), Sher mines these dark corners of our psyche in a highly relatable way.
The Emotionary is, to borrow Sher’s conceit, “spithy” (smart + pithy) in devoting chapters to things like “Annoying Shit People Do” - I mean, who cannot relate to “inapolotence” (apology + incompetence = the inability to admit wrongdoing, which describes my ex-wife to a “T”) or the more modern annoyance of “inattextive” (text + inattentive = incessant phone use during social situations) which are brought into sharper relief through Julia Wertz’s comics, which are interspersed throughout the book. Another section simply title “Rage” had me nodding my head when I got to “strull” (stressful + lull = an escalating period of passive-aggressive tension between two people that leads to a massive eruption, again, my marriage to a “T”) and “discredulous” (disappointed + incredulous = shocked/confused when a love one fails to understand something you value).
What I enjoyed most about The Emotionary is how unafraid Sher is to touch on these many emotional third rails. I do not think it is coincidental that the majority of the book is focused on negative or difficult emotions. It is not until the last of the book’s eight chapters that we get to words that relate to happiness. And while we all strive for “solidation” (solace + validation = the relief of feeling wholly understood by another) you feel Sher working out a lot of her emotional turmoil in the other seven chapters.
The book’s “spithiness” is its one drawback. It is a written and visual bag of potato chips you can mindlessly consume in large chunks, and since the book has just one word on each of its 181 pages, it can be finished in less than an hour. In the balance, it is easy to lose the forest for the trees. The emotions Sher highlights are big and complicated and tend to revolve around wounds that take a long time to heal and people in our lives (family members, loved ones) who inflict that damage, yet if you do not pause to consider them, they are quickly forgotten in the inexorable motion of flipping to the next page. My best advice is to take your time in considering what Sher has to say; you will surely find much you can relate to, laugh about, or even shed a tear.
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