By David Nadelberg
Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $14.95
Schadenfreude, as the past year of closely monitored starlet meltdowns has proven, is rising faster than Guitar Hero as a lazy national pastime. David Nadelberg's traveling event, Mortified, has catered to this same impulse for years: Audience members get up and read their most embarrassing teenage diary entries for the howling joy of the mob. Nadelberg has collected these exercises in public shame into two novel-length books; Mortified: Love Is a Battlefield being the latest offering of tortured adolescent prose, and this edition is focused on the awful poetry, art, and journaling teens compose in the throes of passion. Most of us will never have any rail-blowing, crotch-flashing, help-me moments of infamy recorded by paparazzi, but we were all idiot love-struck 16-year-olds at some point, and this book tends to a more universal pain than anything on TMZ. It's maliciously hilarious reading: the inept erotica ("Just let your demon spawn crawl down my throat and rip apart my insides"; "We kiss passionately for about five minutes"), the godawful poetry ("Only one thing I want you to know/My love for you is an endless flow"), and the tormented, lovelorn diary entries ("The thing is, I'm 11 she's 12. It would never work"). But the real pleasure of reading other people's diaries, as Nadelberg has noted, is the confirmation that "we were all that same strange kid." Schadenfreude isn't so much reveling in the pain of others as it is measuring our own pain against others', and then feeling comforted by the balance. This collection documents, in its painfully goofy way, that we all grew up clueless, horny, dorky, and narcissistic, warped by pop culture, longing for things we didn't understand, and feeling shut out from the glamorous, sex-soaked and easy lives we imagined everyone else was living. When Nadelberg publishes Mortified: Twentysomethings, I'll be first in line.