Text from: Walker Percy, “Delta Factor” in: Message in a Bottle (1975). Image: Martian, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, August 2012.
BOOK BAKING: »What is as much yours as you are yourself,and what is as little yours as you are yourself?« Augustine asked long ago, and we begin planning a book without having an answer ready, with an open mouth, a fly catching orifice. The first step in writing is to bring the people to life on the page. Before you can do that you must imagine them, live with them in your mind, and long before that you must dream them up like a patisseur dreams up cupcakes without worrying about customers, but simply to elevate his own consciousness, coddle his cupcakeness, to entertain his heart, to sweeten the creative deal lest it becomes a deal with the devil, generating beauty not out of reverie and substance but out of hubris and soil. The paradox of all art: is it just for me, or does it go beyond me? Alas, there is not the tiniest space left between those two tempers. The year is 1000 A.D. The character at hand, on the tip of one’s pen as it were, is a young woman of no more than 15 years, her name is Gisela, who one day as if in a dream becomes queen of a brand new kingdom. But it’s not an altogether pleasant dream: if it were a piece of music it would be an overture, an opening to an unknown future – the first queen of a non-nation, a horde, even if she’s only a girl and comes from far away like a fairy princess, has no power over the minds of the subjects to fall back on — she feels as alone as an orphan, and she is in dire need of an angel who advises her to keep calm and carry on, to uphold one’s faith at the bloody birth of the new realm. She’s small and young in years, but her fate weighs heavily on the globe: it’s going to be a triumph for christendom, and this part of the story is true.
[click on pic to continue reading; image: St Apollonia by Albrecht Dürer]
At Easter the common folks bring their eggs to the Lord. The lidless leveret lies in the grave, its open eyes directed upwards in death. The egg goes into the Easter bread: it is blamed on the lagomorph. Mixed images: resurrection and spawning, the hare as chicken, the sidestepping and egg painting, the instinct to flee before the crucifixion and after, Saturday’s search for the buried, the Hidden, and above all the sweetness rising from the sadness like a naked fog and dissolving on the tongue when the chocolate egg melts. Stubbornly we move to safety from the power of the old pictures. Rites and processions take place in backyards: their participants are like ghosts. Sung incantations that connect heaven and earth vanish as soon as the first warmth of spring arrives. What is the essence? What is the truth of our time? What forms the center of the egg whose center is an egg?
…The Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” —Gen 11,5-7
When I first opened this new review of Thank You For Your Sperm by Henning Koch — I read “Fruitflies in Action” & I was already beginning to wag a teutonic finger at the author until I realized my mistake. I think my favorite bit in this review is the observation that I have the “ability to stay on the friendly side of obscurity” and “a healthy, if almost habitual interest in sex, which is never a bad thing.” Indeed! Though I must follow up on this book with another one clad in more demure colors, you know, not to give the impression I’d like to be a latter-day Henry Miller. Thank You For Your Sperm, Henning Koch!
I’ll be reading from my collection “Thank You For Your Sperm" on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 8 PM. The location is the charming bookstore Shakespeare and Sons, (Raumerstraße 36, 10437 Berlin).
You’ll also be able to pick up a (discounted) copy of TYFYS for friends and family — Christmas will be upon us soon.
This is likely to be my only reading in Europe (or anywhere). Fill the stalls and snatch this moment from the jaws of time. If you can’t come: tell a friend or two.
Need further motivation? Check out some reviews. Or just look forward to the marvelous bagels baked at the bookshop.
Also, I’ll bring a pen to sign book(s) if you bring your name.
Update (21 Nov): blog post after the reading!
I only found out about Scottish-Japanese performer-writer-musician-trickster Momus this summer via his darling, tongue-in-cheek “Precocious Young Miss Calloway”. As a long time Marie-Calloway-aficionado myself, I wrote to him. We exchanged polite emails and PDF versions of our books. Last night, I listened to two hours of Internet kitchen radio with Momus and his Berlin hosts. Sperm and sex (which came to Britain in the Annus Mirabilis 1963, when I was born, as Momus told us) were topics early on and the discussion, held up intermittently by Momus memorabilia, global warming & global leaking, kept coming back to sperm in particular, including my favorite evolutionary theory, panspermia, until at some point, accompanied by virtuoso Dutch mouth trumpeting, Momus urged the listeners to
«please buy “Thank You For Your Sperm" by Berlin author Marcus Speh.»
Alright! Despite Momus’ assertion that I «wouldn’t get too excited about his endorsement, because he came relatively late to this” (Sperm? Writing? Radio?), I am of course thrilled to bits, awed, blown away, momused.
Thank you for your sperm, Momus!
Photo: Momus (centre) between hosts of [Berlin’s radio on] hosts Adrian Shephard and Rinus van Alebeek in an undisclosed Berlin kitchen on October 2, 2013. Only Momus has earned his patch. Check out: Momus’ [blog & tour dates] & [Mrs Tsk*]. In his latest album, [Bambi], Moondog meets Tom Waits meets Disney in Japan ([playlist][spotify]). His novel, [Book of Jokes]. Charming: [Precocious Young Miss Calloway]. [Meeting Marie Calloway Without Adrien Brody] [Philip Larkin, Annus Mirabilis] [Panspermia via Wikipedia]
All the other “Serious Writer” stories in my collection are told from a male perspective. Only “The Serious Writer And Her Bush" (below, a kind of counter-piece to "The Serious Writer And His Penis") assumes that The Serious Writer is a woman.
I’ve often been drawn to picking female protagonists only to find out later that it’s too hard for a man to write a woman convincingly. At least I cannot do it & I think it may be a widespread problem among male writers. Take Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” — for me, the title figure never really comes to life in the same way as Lewin, the male protagonist, does. He seems to carry the burden of the story while she carries the heavier fate.
Perhaps someone should offer a tutorial for Serious Writing (Wo)Men, “Writing as a (wo)man for wo(men).”
Here’s the story — The Serious Writer And Her Bush:
«The serious writer looks back on a long and distinguished career as an herbologist. Her favourite bush grows in Central Park and is called Noah’s Ark by the residents because of the myriad of animals that it shelters. The serious writer has given a name to every leaf and branch of the Ark, and when autumn comes, her heart slowly withers, pondering decay as the shrub sheds its summer splendour and returns to the raw.»
—From: The Serious Writer And Her Bush, in “Thank You For Your Sperm”, published by MadHat Press. This story was first published under my nom de plume Flawnt in elimae. — Photo: Central Park Bridges (Wikimedia).
«This debut collection mixes the sacred and profane, beauty and beast, the strange and the wondrous. Not necessarily in that order. Or any type of defined order other than The Serious Writer segment […] Rather, the stories in this book seem quarantined like hungry orphans: Read me, they appear to shout from their temporary cots, take me home and love me; or better yet make love to me. Speh’s voices are consistently on pitch, his plots and settings well defined. There is a clatter in the book similar to the way Chekhov made his stories come alive.»