Schuman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her first book, Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For, and reported the following:
This is approximately the fiftieth-saddest story I have ever known: In 1995, I was overexcited to be in Europe for the first time in the way only a chronically disaffected 90s young adult can be. That is, I’d made a pilgrimage of sorts, to pay homage to the remains of the most influential person in my life, Franz Kafka—to walk the streets he’d walked, to live in his hundred-year-old shadow for a few days and thus (obviously) osmote (osmosify? osmosificate?) just a fraction of his genius. It didn’t work.Visit Rebecca Schuman's website.
Schadenfreude, A Love Story isn’t actually about Germans (although it is), as much as it’s the Bildungsroman of a doofus (the much less appealing backup title), told as a very digressive and somewhat petulant love letter to Kafka, the German who wasn’t German who started it all. It’s all about Kafka, whose “Das Urteil” (“The Judgment”) runs “an endless stream of traffic” in circles around dear Ford Madox Ford when it comes to unreliability—the one trait, rather than genius, I did manage to inherit in that summer of 1995, whose ignominy is immortalized on the book’s ninety-ninth page, where this happens:
After ditching my friends in great dramatic fashion so that I might be able to commune with Kafka’s ghost in proper writerly solitude, I grow immediately restless—so much so that I end up clumsily seducing a random guy I’d met the day before. (Or did I allow myself to be clumsily seduced by him? I’m too unreliable to allow you to be sure.) Before all that, however, comes this line, a line that does not take place in Germany and does not pertain to Germans, and yet does, curiously enough, reveal more or less the whole character of the book (or, at any rate, the version I’d like you to know): “I should have—I knew I should have—stuck to my café glowering and my artisanal travel journal, but my dirtiest secret turned out to be that I could only stand my own company for half a day.”