Arts & Culture

How the Misery Began

Lia Romeo, co-author of 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. The book, which Lia wrote with her brother, Nick, is a list of 11,002 reasons to be unhappy, … Read More

By / January 19, 2009

Lia Romeo, co-author of 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. The book, which Lia wrote with her brother, Nick, is a list of 11,002 reasons to be unhappy, a spoof on 14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

It was 1998, and I was feeling depressed.  I was a senior in high school, I had small breasts and big glasses, and boys didn’t like me.  A friend, thinking I needed some cheering up, gifted me with a copy of a little white book with a bright, crayoned smiley face on the spine: 14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

14,000 Things to Be Happy About, which has sold over a million copies, is a stream-of-consciousness list of life’s small joys.  "Baseball."  "Beef brisket."  "Believing in one great love."  And 13,997 more in the same vein. 

It failed to resonate. 

My only experience with baseball was being last-picked in elementary school, I knew too much about industrial meat processing to enjoy eating beef anything, and if there was only one great love, I was fairly sure I’d never find it.

My brother Nick suggested that it would be funny to write a parody: 14,000 Things to Be Miserable About.  I thought that was a fantastic idea.

And so we did nothing about it.  For the next ten years.

Then, about a year ago, Nick and I were sitting around drinking wine, and we decided to look up literary agents that specialized in humor books.  By this time, the ubiquity of the internet had made it easy to do so without investing $27.99 in a Writer’s Market directory, which would have meant relying on the roaches under my sink as my primary protein source for the next week.  

So we put together a query letter, and, shortly thereafter, we had a book deal.  That was when we realized that the downside of getting a book deal is that we’d actually have to write a book. 

Specifically, we’d have to make a list of 11,002 things to be miserable about.  (Our publisher, Abrams Image, cut the number down from the original 14,000 so the book could be sold at a lower price point.)  We’d each have to come up with 5,501 things that sucked – more, actually, because inevitably there were some duplicates.  ("Mad Cow Disease."  "Machiavelli."  "The Mongol invasion.")

We started by passing a legal pad back and forth across my kitchen table.  Nick wrote: "Death."  I wrote: "Life."  Nick wrote: "Hitler."  I wrote: "Erectile dysfunction."   And we went from there.

Of course, spending six months working on the book – and then the past three months writing and maintaining a blog (a collection of the most depressing facts, figures, news, photos, and video from around the globe) – may not have been the healthiest thing for my state of mind.  The other night I went to a friend’s party, and while everyone else was singing "Happy Birthday," I was thinking about the artificial flavorings in the cake. 

And so tomorrow, in honor of a historic and exciting day in our country’s history, I’ll present a list of Things About the Inauguration to Be Miserable About.  I’m a huge Obama fan, and I’m as excited about the new administration as anybody… but I’ve become an expert at seeing the misery in just about anything.

Lia Romeo, co-author of 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.

Preview 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, visit the book’s website, or see book trailers and videos on YouTube.