A beautiful little book that will leave a melancholy taste lingering on your tongue. It is a book that, by virtue of its definitions, defies its own definition. It will make you pay just a bit more attention to the world and people around you. It doesn’t shy away from deep emotions; it confronts them head-on, which makes for a tricky book. It can feel so big that it is overwhelming. Koenig manages to strike a good balance between heavy emotional deep-dives and compelling frivolity ... These are not just random words, though, pulled out of thin air and whipped into existence. They are taken from words that already exist and are refashioned, which grounds them in a linguistic reality while providing a framework through which Koenig can be creative ... Koenig uses words that already exist to describe other words that don’t yet exist, which is kind of the whole practice of writing: to capture something in words that don’t yet have a name. The best poetry lends language to a feeling or experience not yet captured. It’s why good poetry (and, by extension, this book) is so satisfying ... Koenig has a cunning ability to parse out emotions in a very specific way and pin them down into actual articulation, both in the word he creates itself and its poetic definition and etymology ...There is joy to be found in every nook and cranny of this book.
It’s not all whimsy, and a philosophy of language weaves through the dictionary ... It’s undeniably thrilling to find words for our strangest feelings. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is most compelling when Koenig casts light into lonely corners of human experience ... In a sense all words are made up by someone, at some time. It’s an idea that lends living, breathing languages like ours their precarious charm: The things we say across the breakfast table, or whisper in a lover’s ear, are simply made-up words we’ve deemed useful enough to keep in circulation. 'A word is only real if you want it to be,' Koenig writes. It’s a defense of language’s endless creative possibility, and a fitting coda to an enchanting book of made-up words turned real.