In this book, William Ian Miller offers his reflections on the perverse consequences, indeed often the opposite of intended effects, of so-called 'good things'. Noted for his remarkable erudition, wit, and playful pessimism, Miller here ranges over topics from personal disasters to literary and national ones. Drawing on a truly immense store of knowledge encompassing literature, philosophy, theology, and history, he excavates the evidence of human anxieties around scarcity in all its forms (from scarcity of food to luck to where we stand in the eyes of others caught in a game of musical chairs we often do not even know we are playing). With wit and sensitivity, along with a large measure of fearless self-scrutiny, he points to and invites us to recognize the gloomy, neurotic, despondent tendencies of reasonably sentient human life. The book is a careful examination of negative beliefs, inviting an experience of bleak fellow-feeling among the author, the reader and many a hapless soul across the centuries. Just what makes you more nervous, he asks, a run of good luck, or a run of bad?
Table of Contents
AcknowledgmentsA Somewhat Dour Introduction1. May You Have My Luck2. Competition3. The Messenger4. Vile Jelly5. The Law of Conservation of Good Things6. A Jaundiced View of Authenticity (and Identity)7. Lord of the Table: Judges and the Last Supper8. Odds and the End9. Epilogue: Go Litel Boke Amidst a Flurry of Auto-AntonymsWorks Cited