Did you know that in Shakespeare’s time there was a sweet white wine called Bastard, and it’s mentioned in Henry IV Part One? Or that on days when he gave public readings, Dickens had two tablespoons of rum with fresh cream for breakfast, and a pint of champagne for tea? Or that George Eliot was the first person to refer to ‘pop music’ in a letter in 1862?
All this and more can be found at http://interestingliterature.com/. There are more scholarly articles but ‘Best Anecdotes Featuring Oscar Wilde’ and ‘Interesting Literary Facts about Halloween’ will do for me.
I think we all know that schadenfreude means joy at another’s pain, but I wonder if the Germans have a word for pain at another’s joy. (Apparently they don’t have a word for kindness. Sometimes I wonder if they do this on purpose.)
It’s a little like jealousy-plus. I remember going to an information day about finding an agent. One of the speakers was a published author who talked about how she’d just bagged up her first novel with brown paper and string, bunged it in the post and two days later had a phone call from an agent asking to represent her. We all wanted to kill her. Or was it just me?
I’d love to be one of those open-hearted people who is happy at the good fortune of others. It is something that my friends and family seem to achieve. And, to be fair, usually I genuinely am pleased. I think it’s just different when it’s something that I want to do. Occasionally I cannot read the Guardian review for all those people getting published, and will switch off interviews with authors on Radio 3.
It passes. Most often they are saying useful things. Looking into Buddhism, one of the things that has become apparent to me is the sheer number of unexpected people who have their own suffering. And – when I’m listening to yet another author talking about their great success – it is of some comfort.