Monat: Juni 2014

Best New Books – Summer 2014: New Novels & Recommendations

Underdog Literature July 2014

Here are 20 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention…

all published in the first half of 2014.

see also:

for a list of cool upcoming titles… click here [Link]


01: EMILY GOULD, „Friendship“, 272 pages, July 1st 2014.


02: TYLER McMAHON, „Kilometer 99“, 352 pages, June 2014.

Kilometer 99: A Novel

03: WALLY RUDOLPH, „Four Corners“, 304 pages, June 2014. [pen name of „Sons of Anarchy“ actor Walther Wong.]

Four Corners: A Novel

04: LISA GRAFF, „Absolutely Almost“, 304 pages, June 2014. [Middle-Grade]

Absolutely Almost

05: HEATHER O’NEILL, „The Girl who was Saturday Night“, 416 pages, May 2014.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

06: EMMA JANE UNSWORTH, „Animals“, 288 pages, May 2014.


07: BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, „Remember me like this“, 384 pages, May 2014.

Remember Me Like This

08: JESSICA V. BARNETT, „Freak Camp“, 226 pages, April 2014. [Young Adult]

Freak Camp: Posts From a Previously Normal Girl (Vol. 1)

09: MICHELLE GABLE, „A Paris Apartment“, 378 pages, April 2014. [Chick Lit]

A Paris Apartment

10: BRANDY COLBERT, „Pointe“, 352 pages, April 2014. [Young Adult]


11: SEAN MICHAELS, „Us Conductors“, 464 pages, April 2014.

Us Conductors: A Novel

12: WU MING-YI, „The Man with the Compound Eyes“, 304 pages, 2013 / 2014.

The Man with the Compound Eyes

13: DARRAGH McKEON, „All that is solid melts into Air“, 400 pages, March 2014.

All That is Solid Melts into Air

14: ANTONIA CRANE, „Spent. A Memoir“, 312 pages, Februar 2014.

Spent: A Memoir

15: TOM WILLIAMS, „Don’t start me talkin'“, 220 pages, February 2014.

Don't Start Me Talkin'

16: PORTER SHREVE, „The End of the Book“, 211 pages, February 2014.

The End of the Book

17: ANDREW PETTEGREE, „The Invention of News: How the World came to knew about itself“, 456 pages, February 2014. [Nonfiction / Cultural History of Journalism]

The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself

18: ALEX TIZON, „Little Big Man: In Search of my Asian Self“, 272 pages, January / June 2014. [Memoir / Cultural Studies]

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self

19: NICOLE C. KEAR, „Now I see you. A Memoir“, 288 pages, June 2014. [Memoir about going blind]

Now I See You: A Memoir

20: CELESTE NG, „Everything I never told you“, 304 pages, June 2014.

Everything I Never Told You


Here are two recent novels that I’ve read – and that were really good:

4 of 5 stars: KIM CHURCH, „Byrd“, 228 pages, January 2014.


4 of 5 stars: JENNY OFFILL, “Dept. of Speculation”, 182 pages, January 2014.

Dept. of Speculation

related Posts:


Death of a Friend

One day after his 40th birthday, one of my closest Toronto friends was found dead in his apartment.

I feel the need to acknowledge this.

Remember and celebrate him.

And offer this text to anyone who is mourning him right now, too.


s 2013


[S]’s mother just called me and asked to reach out to let as many people know as possible that [S] passed away. […] Sorry to have to let you know via facebook but I wanted to get the word out in the meantime.“


P. sent me this message two hours ago, on Facebook.

But I’ve only read it now – a couple of minutes ago [on Tuesday], 7.10 pm local time, on my laptop, in Germany.

There’s a light summer rain. There are chirping birds. I’m metres from the open garden door, and there are leaves everywhere. In a couple of days, the cherries will be ripe. It’s not hot. It’s lush and green. Inviting.

I need to talk about [S]. I need to talk about this.
I cannot imagine NOT saying / typing something: focusing anywhere else for the rest of this day. I NEED to write things down. I don’t need you to read it.

But I need to write.

I’ve been keeping a diary for years. I filled more than 2000 pages. Back in school, I sometimes spent 3 or 4 hours a night, just writing stuff. Recounting.

I have a hard time processing things while speaking aloud, in conversations: Thinking takes time. Processing and reactions take time.

My personal speed of thinking and the speed of my typing / writing / phrasing things on paper are much closer:

I’m a better typer than speaker.

Once I type, I can think.

So please don’t go „Oh: He wrote a letter!“ or „Oh: He wrote a eulogy!“. I’m a freelance journalist. I’m working on a novel. But what I’m doing here isn’t WRITING. It’s… thinking – through typing. I need some time. I want to get hold of some thoughts. Face some feelings.

I want to DO something.

Find some order.

Focus on [S].

It’s not an effort to construct the best possible TEXT. It’s an… act of writing, to calm my nerves.

In early 2008, I applied for internships at various [German Cultural Offices] in North America.

It was late winter (February?), and I knew that I’d be done at my university [Hildesheim: Creative Writing and Cultural Journalism] by next spring, 2009.

I needed another (mandatory) internship for my degree; I wanted to spend some time abroad; I had been at Cornell University in 2006 for a postgraduate conference on young German literature; I had a vague idea what the [German Cultural Office] does and… back then, I wasn’t too resourceful or aggressive:

I wanted to go. I knew that this net of offices is the ONE place abroad where people who ended up in German publishing usually go. I saw the [German Cultural Office] requirements (good English, some experience with didactics and / or event and culture management) and I knew that I had a vague chance.

I’m using „vague“ here quite a lot. Because really: Everything about my plan to live in North America was vague.

I don’t have older siblings. I don’t know many people who are slightly older than me. In school, I always had HUGE respect for people 2 or 3 grades ahead of me.

I was born in 1983. I’m 31 now. I was 26 when I first met [S]. He’s 9 years older. To me, people of that age were NEVER the ones I find the nerve to talk to / see as equals. I didn’t know why someone 9 years older than me should take an interest in me, or respect me more than necessary, or just… stop his life. Look down. Face backwards. Focus on MY stuff.

People who are slightly older lead different lives and have more seismic and complex and relevant problems; and while they wrestle with their personal goals and relationships and grown-up challenges, I don’t want to be the person tugging their skirts, slowing them down, asking them to explain things to me.

So… no one explained the [German Cultural Office] system to me.

No one explained Toronto to me.

I didn’t have older queer friends.

I didn’t have older intellectual friends.

I didn’t have older cosmopolitan / urban / professional friends.

My [German Cultural Office] application was good-natured, but it was done without any research, networking, deeper plan or strategy: I didn’t know anything. I was too bashful to ask.

The same spring, I interviewed a German-Croatian author of [S]’s age, Jagoda Marinic [Link: here’s an essay I wrote about her work] who had spent some time in Toronto as a guest of the [German Cultural Office] and UofT’s MUNK centre. I liked Marinic a lot, but didn’t want to grill / misuse / instrumentalize her, so I just asked „How was your time in Toronto? I’m thinking of applying there“, and she said „It’s a nice little city. The people there [did she mean the people in Toronto? Or, as I was sure later: the employees of the Office?] are all slightly cracked / chipped, in a nice way.“ [„angenehm beschädigt“]
I applied to most branches in North America (New York, LA, Boston, Atlanta, maybe even Montreal) through their online application interface and just did a lot of copy’n’pasting. Only for the Toronto application, I mentioned Jagoda and that she said that she liked her time there…

and in the end, Toronto was the only Office that replied.

[Later, Jagoda told me that she had heard that I had mentioned her in my application; but I never checked what exactly happened while they considered me as an intern: If the Toronto Office people got in touch with her specifically, and / or if THIS is what made them take me, and / or if Jagoda said something nice, and / or if anyone asked any questions.]
No matter what exactly made this happen:

I knew that I was going to a place where people are slightly cracked / chipped.

In a nice way.

In the 9 months before my departure, I had a lot of Hildesheim work to do (spring 2008). I took another long internship in Stuttgart, at Klett-Cotta (three of my best, happiest months in life so far), and once I knew that I had to be in Toronto in early January of 2009, I planned my final, incomplete / abridged Hildesheim semester to wrap up all my courses, write final papers, move out of my Hildesheim apartment etc:
Autumn was lots of work. While eating dinner, I watched season 2 of „Ugly Betty“ [Link: personal essay on what the show means to me and my writing] and I figured that soon, I’d be a similar person in a similar environment: Slightly clueless, but happy and enthusiastic. A new office guy in a tense and frantic and professional and high-pressure (?) North American office space.

Slightly cracked / chipped.

In a nice way.

I love [S]’s grin. The weird ups and downs of his lips, and they way he can look snappy and sardonic and kind and wise and silly and strong at the same time.

I love how often he’s rolling his eyes.

I love how lots of things he’s wearing always seem like statements. Or costumes. Or little subversive… decoys: He always looked like he was dressing up. Masquerading! He picked things that seemed to state an intention („Look! I’m a leather jacket! I’m worn by snappy people who wear leather jackets!“) while he didn’t state this intention himself („Sorry, leather jacket. You’re trying too hard. And I’m wearing you anyways. You might signal ’snappy‘. But I, [S], will signal the opposite. It’ll be a fun contrast!“)

A lot of people try to fit a role.

Or dress THEIR part.

[S] always seemed subversive in the sense that whatever piece of clothing he wore – checkered shirts, polo shirts, khakis, pyjama pants, jackets, an old „Green Eggs and Ham“-T-Shirt, a new, slighty red-rimmed (?) pair of „aggressive“ designer glasses –, that piece of clothing suddenly had trouble transmitting what it was designed to transmit:
If [S] dressed like a tourist, he was DRESSED UP as a tourist.
If he dressed Canadian, he dressed „Canadian“.
His [S]-ness was stronger than the incidental clothes. The clothes stood no chance. They could not get their points across. Telegraph their codes and signals. They were props. [S]’s [S]-ness outshone them.

And I think he had fun with that.


Trouble is: You can’t see that too well on photos. There, [S] often DOES look like a tourist. Or a dopey, beary Canadian. Or some office person. In order to find an apartment in Toronto (while still in Germany), I needed to create some kind of „respectable“ international online presence that prospective apartment-owners / roommates could see… so I signed up on Facebook in December of 2008.
I looked for the [German Cultural Office] Toronto staff. But the only person with a profile that I found right away was [S]…

a pale, slim, handsome, nerdy guy with glasses (and a boyfriend!), complicated grin, smart eyes. And often: bland / weirdly tourist-y clothes. I had to think of Alexis Denisof, a – rather hot – actor who played a young, dorky British nerd / scholar on „Buffy the Vampire Slayer“ and „Angel“. Judging from photos, I expected [S] to be very smart.

Distant. Professional. And maybe flirty / sexual.

The real person? Completely different – because of ONE aspect you can’t see in pictures:
[S] GETS the joke.

[S] SEES the problems and contradictions.

No matter the scene – he’s not just a cast member: He’s also an onlooker with a lot of experience of the „genre“ and the genre’s rules. He loves Amy Sedaris. He loves David Sedaris. He loves Kristen Chenoweth and aggressive parodies like her ABC sitcom „Good Christian Bitches“. In the beginning, for about two weeks, I saw [S] as one of the „slightly cracked“ and slightly comedic [German Cultural Office] characters I had come to anticipate – angenehm beschädigt:
„Es gibt noch [S]“, I wrote home to my friends after the first week, „den verbitterten schwulen Bibliothekar ohne Bibliothek (na ja: vielleicht 200 einsame Buecher, das Allernoetigste halt), weil dem [Office] die Gelder gekuerzt wurden vor zwei, drei Jahren. Ich weiss nicht, was er den ganzen Tag macht. Die Augen verdrehen und sich von den Kolleginnen den Arm tätscheln lassen.“
„There’s also [S] – the increasingly bitter gay librarian without a library (there aren’t more than 200 lone books, nothing more than the bare essentials) because two or three years ago, there were cutbacks. I don’t know what [S] does all day. Roll his eyes and getting his arm patted by his female colleagues.“

The  core staff isn’t big. I worked there for three months, in a group of the always-same 8 or 9 people. But there ARE lots of (mostly: closed) doors. Lots of fragmentation / individual projects / specific pressures. People liked each other – but no one was overly chummy or personal. A Teutonic atmosphere.
There was a weekly „jour fixe“ meeting on Monday morning where everyone circled around the isle of the tea kitchen, and THAT was the sole moment when I saw [S] and heard him talk and react.
He shrugged his shoulders, a lot. He rolled his eyes. Smiled his smile.
And had his arm pat by ze German Frau Kolleginnen.
It was January. Very dark. Very cold. Flourescent lights. Grey carpet. [S] seemed sad. The place seemed sad. All of Toronto seemed cold and cozy and calm and cracked under all that ice and winter – in a nice, but VERY grey way. John Updike died. The first few weeks, I didn’t have too much to do. I read morose novels by Margaret Atwood.
That suave gay librarian guy that I had stalked on Facebook…?
He turned out to be a LOT more mellow, in person.

Calm? Tired? Apathetic?

It took until the second or third „jour fixe“ meeting that something caught my eye:

When there was bullshit in the room… he sensed it. When someone lied… he knew.
Whenever anyone made excuses. Or tried to fool anyone. Or just used a weird phrase or term or made some silly judgement… HE caught it first. HE registered stuff.
If this was „Mad Men“, he was reading between the lines. If this was „Ugly Betty“, he got the hidden jokes and hypocrisies. It wasn’t „Mad Men“ or „Ugly Betty“. It was „middle-aged German people talk about risk and duties in a small part of a smallish Toronto office tower in Toronto’s rather small downtown core area… while their sole male Canadian co-worker looked for contractors and worked on building a new, more impressive library and calmly did his thing… behind the blinders of his office.“

[S] had worked in New York during 9/11. [S] had been in a relationship for nearly a decade. [S] had travelled the world, read TONS of books, knew HUNDREDS of difficult Germans and their idiosyncrasies and treated them with respect, flair and charm. To me, my [German Cultural Office] internship seemed like a big and exciting new step. To him, it was one of many dark, cold and rather dull Toronto winters that he spent working on getting his library back in shape. Eventually (2012?), he hung a gigantic „Keep calm and carry on“ print over his corner of the office.
[S] saw humour. And excitement. And drama.
Quiet fun. And quirks. And silly nuisances.
But he wore his role, „elegant librarian at the not-very-elegant German Cultural Office“ with the same wink / ironic distance / occasional smart and devastating grin as he wore his clothes:

The [German Cultural Office] wasn’t his life – but something he checked out every day, like a goofy soap opera that he was very, very loyal too – just not as engrossed as the soap opera producers would have hoped. His German was excellent. His assessments were spot-on. He understood this office and these characters and the rhythms and neuroses and fallacies and cultural problems. He helped steer that ship. Balance cross-cultural issues. Keep it afloat. He was graceful and professional and calm and very, very respectful and aware. But it wasn’t his big scene. His huge dream. An exciting part of life that he was excited to have a part in.

After a few days, I signalled that I wanted to work with him. There was no real library and nothing for me to do. But before the end of January, we went to an art bookstore in the Annex that was about to close – David Mirvish Books – and [S] picked some bargain titles (art history and catalogues and illustrated books) for the [German Cultural Office] library.
While we were waiting at a cross-light near the Robarts Library, I worked up the nerve to ask him for cafés to sit and read after work: I had been using a Starbucks at Church and Wellesley nearly every day. „Are there any other cafés that are good for reading? Like maybe… gay ones?“

Did we become friends because we’re both queer? Because we’re big readers? Because we were the lone men in the office? There were TONS of things that made [S] attractive to me: his wit. His calm, civilized, never-petty sarcasm. His grooming and sense of being „proper“ / ordentlich.
He was raised in Saskatchewan, on a farm, and when my ex-girlfriend came to visit me in March, we saw „One Week“, an all-Canadian road movie starring „Dawson’s Creek“’s Jonathan Jackson who’s heading for the Pacific Ocean on a motorcycle, starting in Toronto. The Saskatchewan scenes of the movie feature a stark and calm, no-nonsense, luminous female middle-aged horse trainer who seems to speak nothing but the truth.
[S] is honest. Direct. Aware.
There was no point in bullshitting him, ever.

I met his partner on a Saturday in their condo on Queen Street East. He had made waffles with bacon even though he’s not eating meat himself. There were cocktails. Whipped cream. Blueberries. Two older cats, Kafka and… Tilo. Lots of well-curated books. Pillows. Lots of EXTREMELY well-curated music. A kitchen that was the center of the room; the center of their lives. A Dr. Seuss print. (Or was it an original?). Lots of small, personal, beloved and well cared-for tokens / souvenirs / talismans.
The [German Cultural Office] world and the [German Cultural Office] squibbles seemed to wash over [S]. They held no importance. Here, in his condo loft, EVERYTHING held importance. Everything made him enthusiastic and proud – most of all his smart and calm and beary and nerdy and even more professional and well-balanced and amused-by-the-small-smart-daily-contradictions partner.

We had brunch. [S] and me had occasional lunches. I found a boyfriend. [S] hosted a dinner party for the four of us. His partner talked about „Dr. Horrible“ and Isaac Asimov and the Talking Heads and Lamb and MOMA and Broadway, my boyfriend talked about Matthew Barney, we all talked about Björk, I can see [S] chopping tiny tomatoes. Crushing ice. Frying prawns. Or just using one of these fizzy gas Sprudelmax water thingies to carbonate our drinks.
I think I’ve had 15 to 20 lunches or dinners with [S].
All but once, he paid the bill.
To say thanks, I got him books. He was ALWAYS intrigued and thankful, and nearly always read them soon, and his opinions were surprising and exciting and never quite what I expected.

Since 2009, I have been in Toronto every year, for three months each, early February to the very end of April. [S] got his new library – and it was smart and elegant and well-curated and a HUGE step forward in making the [German Cultural Office] into an inviting and relevant place.
When I was in town, I came back to visit the Office quite often [the young female Canadian office manager, H., is one of my favorite people in the world, too] and met [S] for coffee or lunch every 4 or 5 weeks. He also let me know about gallery exhibitions or concerts or readings or anything Cory-Doctorow-related that happened in Toronto: Both me and his boyfriend are fans, and we NEVER managed to attend the same event, together.

When I asked for gay cafés, [S] was too surprised to give any recommendations (and then: I don’t think there ARE any particularly reading-friendly gay evening places in Toronto apart from the Church Street Starbucks, anyways), but a couple of days later, he gave me a library discard from his stacks: a book called „Secret Toronto“ full of – outdated – Toronto facts and recommendations. It wasn’t meant to be a super-helpful book in itself (too old / outdated), but as a gesture, it made me understand: „This person is listening to my questions and concerns. And if he has input, he will give it.“
He always did, for 5+ years.
Links to articles. Goodreads recommendations. Videos on my Facebook wall. TONS of likes and quick „Liebe Grüße! XX [S]“ comments in my news feed. In 2009, he proofread an English translation of my „I am Clark Kent“ essay for a magazine in the Philippines. In 2010, he introduced me to Björk’s „What is it“ video and I hummed the song all year. He read from my novel and ALWAYS saw me as a writer starting out, not as a dubious person-who-might-or-might-not-become-an-actual-writer. And he knew Rikki Stock, director of the German Book Office, and always told me that he’d LOVE to introduce us / set something up once I was ready.
I never felt ready / accomplished enough.

The most important books [S] introduced me to were by David Rakoff, a gay essayist – and when my relationship fell apart in 2011 and I went on my first date with a new Toronto guy – a fashion journalist and self-professed book lover – in 2012, the new guy said that he ALWAYS carried a book around. „What do you carry around NOW?“ – „I don’t know if you’ve heard of… David Rakoff?“
I loved Rakoff’s first collection, „Fraud“, best, and since my new to-be-boyfriend hadn’t read it, I wanted to buy him a copy before our second date. But then, no bookstore in town carried it – and I was THIS close to just ring [S]’s bell and ask him if I could have his copy for the night and replace it later.
[He would have said yes – but chances are that his copy has an inscription, and is holy to him. So I didn’t ask and, in the end, bought another queer acerbic smartass book instead, Josh Killmer-Purcell’s „The Bucolic Plague“. My new relationship worked fine for two Toronto winters… but when Rakoff passed away that same summer, it seemed like a horrible omen.

[S] liked cruises. [S] loves his family and his energetic young sister, and he loves MY energetic young sister, mostly by proxy / because he knows and loves that kind of sibling dynamic. [S]’s German was great, and he respected both Germany and Canada and their achievements and power plays on the global stage to a MUCH bigger degree than me.
[S] liked gardening and nature and hammocks and casual drinks.
[S] LOVED hospitality.
And if anyone made an extra effort or gave an extra bit of thought or attention, he was the first to notice and applaud it.

[S] loved eccentric TV cooks like the Barefoot Comtessa.
[S] hate-loved 70s kitsch and 70s TV.
[S] shared links to segments of „George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight“ and Rick Mercer’s Grafitty Alley rants / monologues that, to me, made no sense 🙂
I don’t know if he was genuinely patriotic… or just thought that Canada, by and large, made less of a mess than all the other industrial nations (which I agree).
There was an awful lot of loyalty and love for his home and culture… and at the same time, he was quick to say that he „survived“ his super-rural home town. I’m sure that, by that logic, he „survived“ his university time in Konstanz, his 9 (?) years in New York, his time as a [German Cultural Office] employee and his time as a condo-owner on one of Toronto’s loudest and least predictable streets, too.

In 2011, he seemed tired and absent-minded. We saw each other a couple of times – and I attended a great meeting of the European Book Club in [S]’s library, where Erol Boran hosted a discussion on Jenny Erpenbeck’s surprisingly awesome „Heimsuchung“ / „Visitation“ –, but something was off. There were plenty of Facebook chats and comments over the summer, though, and when he decided to visit old friends in Germany in mid-January of 2012, I could not WAIT to pick him up at the Frankfurt airport.
We drove home to my mom’s place. We arrived by 8 am.
My mother had breakfast with us, [S] was immediately smitten with her and the life she had built, and for two days, the two of them had lots of conversations and effortless bonding.
I showed him the empty farmhouse that I use as a writing space, and it was pretty drab (January! German village!), but his first comment was „Go look outside! Gosh: What a great view! And there’s even an evergreen tree! So there’s green even now. You’re lucky!“
[His second comment was „My partner refers to this farmhouse as ‚The Masturbatorium‘ because that’s what we think you’ll most likely be doing here, a lot.“]

My mother, my younger sister, [S] and me had dinner at a traditionally German restaurant in Bad Wimpfen. The next day, I saw him off at the Heidelberg train station – and before that, we had Prosecco at the Rossi. The weather was harsh. The days were too drab. And still, his visit was a big success, and I was sure that this all needed to be repeated soon. In a better season. With more time and energy.
[S] loved it. My mother loved it. They both left HUGE impressions on each other; and since then, there is no message from [S] that doesn’t include „say hi to your beautiful mother / goddess of a mother“.

When we met again – mere two or three weeks later, in Toronto – he introduced me to HIS mother, and we talked about Saskatchewan, and I could not wait to see the whole family dynamic of these smart, alert, charming and no-nonsense people playing out, eventually, at some later, bigger event, down the line.
There were dozens of small future plans:

Once I’m back in Toronto, we NEED to finally visit Bistro Zocalo – your favorite 2012 restaurant discovery.

Once I’m done with the novel, we NEED to raise hell and find me some North American writing gigs.

Once there are new plans for trips to Germany, we NEED to make more time!

Once my Mom can see herself on a flight to Toronto, she NEEDS to say hi!
We haven’t yet watched the Cremaster cycle.
I haven’t met his father or sister.
He hasn’t met the fashion journalist ex.
I got a cold in 2012 and couldn’t even attend a stupid George Stroumboulopoulos taping.

He lent me his copy of Kamal al-Solaylee’s „Intolerable“ in 2013… and I still haven’t read it.

His parter lent me his copy of „Fierce Invalids Home from hot Climates“ in 2009… and I still haven’t read it.
I read and loved „Natural Oder“ by Toronto author Brian Francis in 2012 – and there was no cheap second-hand copy of the novel on German EVER, and I kept on looking every 3 or 5 months, and I HATE that I could not get that book into his hands for 2+ years because it is the most [S]-like and [S]-appropriate and [S]-appealing book that I have ever read.


I knew that there were health issues. It took some energy to ask „What’s wrong? Are you okay?“, and [S] replied „No. All is fine. Just tired.“ But not more.

It took more energy to ask a second time and get the same answer.

I must have asked 6 or 8 times – but it was clear that he did not want to talk about the specifics, and since he was SO happy to be treated like a healthy, energetic person, I just offered help and said things like „I hope you’re well“ and „have a good week!“ in the broadest and least specific terms, again and again.

I still don’t know what was up in a medical sense, and even if I had pressed harder, I don’t think I would have gotten a direct answer.
But then, I ALWAYS got a direct answer if I asked about his outlook, plans, happiness – and for the time being, that was okay: We did not talk about the elephant in the room. But there was TONS of other beautiful and smart and fascinating and darkly funny stuff in that room, and we encouraged each other to talk (and celebrate) THESE things – and for someone you only see five to eight days a year, that seemed… appropriate.

I don’t have older siblings. I STILL don’t know many people who are slightly older than me. And my friendship was [S] was one of the most effortlessly thrilling, intellectually exciting, goofy and well-tempered and mild-mannered and big-hearted and drama-free friendship dynamics I’ve ever had: I felt blessed. Respected. Cheered-on and thought-about. And I NEVER had to question [S]’s sincerity or intention or direction.

I’m bisexual. I’m a writer. A loner. An eccentric. Without a lot of money and without the clearest plan for the future. I might live in North America. I will make it as a German author, eventually. I want to be part of the [German Cultural Office] machine and spread enthusiasm for literature and stories and politics and national identity politics and the construction of „home“, and I often feel torn and homeless myself – until [S] makes it clear that I DO have a home in Toronto. And a home here, with evergreen trees right outside my desk and a goddess of a Mom. 🙂

[S] was sure that I was working things out, and that I’m going places, and that I CAN become a Torontonian or New Yorker – as well as a novelist. He believed in me so hard that I would not have dared to question my energy in front of him: To [S], it was a matter of time. He saw my life expanding. And I hate that he’s not there once / when / if all these things will have been starting to work out, one by one.

Parts of my confidence and happiness are HIS credit, and in so many small ways (his hosting! His wit! His temperance and his aloof office survival skills!), he’s been a role model.
I loved the books. I loved the home. I loved the relationship. I loved the way [S] and his partner celebrated the… quiet dignity that comes from leading a good life. [to quote ‚One Tree Hill‘]
I’m starting to get to know a good number of librarians (…and they’re all pretty awesome!) – but I still don’t have many friends who are in their late 30s or older. And I’m still nervous to ask people who are 3 or 4 steps ahead of me for advice. I’m still afraid to slow them down and bore them. And – this is super-important: I don’t know more than 5 or 6 great queer couples.

How will I live – 10 years from now? How can I be happy – with a woman or a man, but most likely: without kids? What can these relationships look like? What makes a fulfilled life?

I’m high-strung and crazy ambitious. [S] is about balance, awareness and often calls himself a „creature of comfort“. We’re on different paths – but it still is SO empowering and relevant and great for me to see grown-up people who respect each other and work work work work work SO hard on their relationship and their home.

I don’t need caricatures like Cameron and Mitchell from „Modern Family“ when I can see the strains and dynamics and pratfalls and triumphs of [S] and his partner. Not that they over-shared, or that I asked too much: It FELT like it worked beautifully, for nearly 14 years. Seeing that helped me a lot.

In 2008, a viral marketing campaign for „The Dark Knight“ featured stickers, buttons and campaign posters for the fictional Two-Face character: Merchandise / ads that said „I believe in Harvey Dent“. In the movie, Harvey turns into a dangerous, volatile moral monster.

So I’m careful to say „I believe in you“.

Maintaining a life takes effort and energy and hope.

And some of these things – in ways I don’t know and for reasons I don’t know – ran out within [S].

I think this can happen to anyone. Especially if there are medical factors involved. But every time there WAS any energy and hope, [S] created something beautiful. A life that, to me, seemed plausible. And graceful. And attractive. And fair.

Last fall another Toronto friend came to visit me for a couple of days. I left for New York – but she decided to stay behind with my mom, in the village, as her guest. They talked in German and English, and spent nearly two weeks with each other… and it all happened because [S]’s quick visit one year earlier made me believe that – yes! – even to someone who loves TORONTO, even to someone who has COTTAGES and the Canadian wilderness, even to people who don’t particularly love smallish German villages in non-summer months, my family home can be a good place to catch breath. Get some perspective. Rest. And start anew.

Three weeks ago, I messaged [S] on Facebook: „please ask for anything you might need. literally: anything. I’m here. and others are, too. you’re not alone. if you need a time-out in Germany: anytime. seriously. for months, too.“
Two weeks ago, I messaged him again: „please: get in touch if there’s anything you need worked out!“
Three days ago, [S] turned forty. I did not write or message. But my mom did – with another invitation to just come here and live with her.

For years, [S] told me that I HAD to see his family farm in Saskatchewan. And I had zero doubts that this will happen, eventually. That it’s just a matter of scheduling and some elegant timing / serendipity that will signal „Yes: NOW, it does make the most sense!“
In the same way, I keep on telling North American (and Hildesheim / Berlin) friends that if they ever have a breakdown or need some nature or just a quiet place to heal, they are invited to work here, for a while: My farmhouse / writing space is not the most comfortable or complete LIVING space – but friends like [S] told me time and again that, if anything happens, I am welcome on their couch. And I know how much this feeling of being welcome somewhere else helps me every time I feel like I have NOWHERE else to go.
Would I have gone? Eventually, yes.
But for years, knowing that I COULD go was comfort and excitement enough. And by repeatedly inviting him, I hoped to instill the same sense of comfort / security in [S]: There is a place for you in Germany. Always. No questions asked.

It’s dark and clammy. There’s a moth banging against the window pane.
I’m still at my grandparent’s empty place. Six hours of writing have passed.
Sometimes it’s great in here. Sometimes it’s horrible. Sometimes it’s great to be me. Sometimes everything seems THIS close to spiral out of my grasp. I don’t think that this kind of spiralling can ever be prevented. I don’t think it takes much for a life to shatter – and I don’t think anyone is to blame.
This will happen again. And every time, it will feel brutal and senseless and like a tragedy in that old Greece theater sense of „It took SO many factors for this to happen. If SOMETHING would have been aligned slightly differently, everything would have changed.“

A cat just randomly jumped against the window.
Crouched on the ledge. Peeked inside.
I opened the door – but it won’t come in.

I’ll still leave the door open.

I feel a strange and cheap euphoria: It’s quarter to 1 at night, and I made this text.
I needed to react. And I channeled my reaction into something that appeals to my Protestant-raised worker mentality: a task is complete. Something HAS BEEN DONE. Nothing is better. But I FEEL better – because I did something that can be shared.
I don’t know if it NEEDS to be shared. And if, in any way, this makes anything WORSE, for anyone: Please let me know. I’m two steps (and one ocean) removed from the people [S] REALLY loved. The people who FOUGHT for him. WORKED for his health and safety and happiness. I’ve had some meals and coffees with him. I’m a distant, fair-weather friend.
But there was hardly a day in the last 5 years when I didn’t think „I wish [S] was closer. I wish that there was more of [S] in my everyday life.“

And I don’t think there’ll be day that I won’t miss him.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.
If you have an empty farmhouse – or some other kind of open door:
Please make sure to signal that it’s open!


June 18th, 2014

One hour later, PS:

I spent a lot of time talking about PLACES here.
Mainly because that’s how my friendship with [S] worked. He made me feel welcome in Toronto. His Facebook presence and his many likes were a constant reminder that – no matter where I am, globally – I have a Toronto friend keeping a close watch on me, cheering me on. [S]’s visit to my mom’s place / my local village made me re-appreciate the farmhouse and my family’s dynamics. And a lot of the conversation between [S] and me was one of us telling the other one: „You DO have a place here. You CAN come here. You ARE welcome.“
I’m still ambivalent about the [German Cultural Office], and I love that, theoretically, it is a place to connect Germany to the world, and make visitors feel welcome: I understand the big appeal / raison d’etre of this net of open, public Offices all around the world. [S] worked for more than one decade to make these places MORE open, MORE welcoming. That’s a great cause, and a career well-spent.

Much of MY personal everyday blues / unhappiness / sadness comes from being stuck in places I don’t want to live for too long. I don’t make enough money to freely decide where I want to live / make my home, so I often feel like I’m at the bottom of a hole, fighting my way up.
Every time I leave and live elsewhere for a period of time, my self-image and my outlook on life change a LOT. If I’m sad and I leave, the whole chemistry of my emotions changes, and I cannot imagine being suicidal in one place… and then switch the place… and still be suicidal. Since University, places are like lily pads. I need to able to jump. I’m afraid this farmhouse will pull me down if I get too comfortable / phlegmatic here.
But: As long as there are other places, I know that NO weight or ballast that I carry around can truly pull me down.
That’s why these invitations and signals and Facebook messages matter to me. A lot.

But of course, that’s MY life. And MY preoccupation. [S] was sick. Something was up. A change of place would not have been his solution. He had a great home and a great relationship. Whatever made him choose to die was not a lack of… farmhouses or specific places where he’d feel welcome. He KNEW that he was welcome in many places, and he KNEW that he was fiercely loved by many, many people.
I know that MY outlook on life improves (or sometimes: completely changes) once there is a person who says „You are welcome here. Come by. I want you around!“ But I can’t treat every personal desperation with Facebook messages saying „Drop in! Stay as long as you want!“
[S] made me feel welcome. Every year. Every time we met. And that was… incredibly helpful and relevant, to me. For years!

I tried to make him feel welcome. I know he DID feel welcome. But that’s not the solution to his problems.
In the smallest and most surprising of ways, [S] was a role model. Someone who always had my back.
Being his friend felt like a HUGE honor.
Meeting him improved days. Sometimes whole weeks. [S]?
You will be missed. Hard.

s 2013.

Die besten Bücher des Jahres 2014 – Empfehlungen,

Underdog Literature June 2014.

zweimal im Jahr gebe ich – zusammen mit der Redaktion und freien Autoren – schnelle Buchtipps für ZEIT Online: je eine Sommer-Empfehlung und ein Tipp zur Weihnachtszeit.

Aktuell fehlen mir noch neue gute Bücher, veröffentlicht 2014 [Link].

…also habe ich drei Tage u.a. bei nach übersehenen, vergessenen, kleinen oder überraschenden Romanen des Jahres gescoutet. Hier eine erste Liste:

frische, lesenswerte Bücher, gerade auf Deutsch erschienen, von einzelnen Kritikern gelobt – aber (noch?) keine richtigen Erfolge:



01: NORA WICKE, „Vierstromland“, Müry Salzmann, 324 Seiten, Februar 2014..

02: GUNNAR CYNYBULK, „Das halbe Haus“, Dumont, 576 Seiten, März 2014. [Perlentaucher]

.03: GREGOR SANDER, „Was gewesen wäre“, 236 Seiten, Februar 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.00 von 5]

.04: CHRISTOPH PETERS, „Herr Yamashiro bevorzugt Kartoffeln“, Luchterhand, 224 Seiten, Mai 2014. [Perlentaucher]

05: JENS SPARSCHUH, „Ende der Sommerzeit“, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 256 Seiten, März 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads]

Ende der Sommerzeit

06: LISA KREIßLER, „Blitzbirke“, mairisch, 208 Seiten, März 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.75 von 5]


07: DENIZ UTLU, „Die Ungehaltenen“, Graf Verlag, 240 Seiten, März 2014. [Goodreads]

Die Ungehaltenen

08: LUDWIG WINDER, „Der Thronfolger. Ein Franz-Ferdinand-Roman“, Zsolnay, 576 Seiten, Februar 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.00 von 5]

Der Thronfolger: Ein Franz-Ferdinand-Roman

09: OLIVER BOTTINI, „Ein paar Tage Licht“ (Krimi), Dumont, 512 Seiten, Februar 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: ca. 4 von 5]

Ein paar Tage Licht


10: GEORGI GOSPODINOV, „Physik der Schwermut“, Droschl, 336 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: Bulgarien 2011. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.26 von 5]

Физика на тъгата

11: ROY JACOBSON, „Die Unsichtbaren“, Osburg Verlag, 270 Seiten, März 2014. Original: Norwegen 2013. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.11 von 5]

De usynlige

12: THOMAS ESPEDAL, „Wider die Natur“, Matthes & Seitz, 192 Seiten, März 2014. Original: Norwegen 2011. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.07 von 5]

Imot naturen

13: ANDRZEJ BART, „Knochenpalast“, Schöffling, 192 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: Polen 2009. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.88 von 5]


14: EIRIKUR ÖRN NORDDAHL, „Böse“, Klett-Cotta / Tropen, 658 Seiten, Juni 2014. Original: Island 2012. [Goodreads: 3.73 von 5]


15: ANTONIO TABUCCHI, „Für Isabel. Ein Mandala“, Hanser, 176 Seiten, März 2014. Original: Portugal 2013. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.17 von 5]

Per Isabel. Un mandala

16: YALI SOBOL, „Die Hände des Pianisten“, Kunstmann, 288 Seiten, März 2014. Original: Israel 2012. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads]

Die Hände des Pianisten

17: JAROSLAV HASEK, „Die Abenteuer des guten Soldaten Svejk im Weltkrieg“, Reclam, 1008 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: Tschechien (Tschechoslowakei??) 1923. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.13 von 5]

The Good Soldier Švejk .

18: NADIFA MOHAMED, „Der Garten der verlorenen Seelen“, C.H. Beck, 269 Seiten, März 2014. Original: USA 2013. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.82 von 5]

The Orchard of Lost Souls: A Novel .

19: VADDEY RADNER, „Im Schatten des Banyanbaums“, Unionsverlag, 384 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: USA 2010. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.04 von 5]

In the Shadow of the Banyan .

20: JEAN ECHENOZ, „14“, Hanser Berlin, 128 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: Frankreich 2012. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.65 von 5]

14 .

21: RYAD ASSANI-RAZAKI, „Iman“, Klaus Wagenbach, 320 Seiten, Januar 2014. Original: Frankeich 2011. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.05 von 5]

La main d'Iman .

22: DAVID LEVITHAN, „Letztendlich sind wir dem Universum egal“, Fischer, 400 Seiten, März 2014. Original: USA 2012. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 4.00 von 5]

Every Day (Every Day #1) .


Bonus? Vier interessante Bücher, zu denen ich keine Leseprobe fand:

01: WAJDI MOUAWAD, „Anima“, dtv premium, 448 Seiten, Juni 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.84 von 5]


02: MACEDONIO FERNÁNDEZ, „Das Museum von Eternas Roman: Der erste gute Roman“, Die andere Bibliothek, 270 Seiten, Februar 2014. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.84 von 5]

The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)

03: JULIEN GRACQ, „Der Versucher“, Droschl, 232 Seiten, Februar 2014. Original: Frankreich 1950. [Perlentaucher | Goodreads: 3.93 von 5.

A Dark Stranger

04: GRIGORI KANOWITSCH, „Ewiger Sabbat“, Die andere Bibliothek, 500 Seiten, März 2014. [Perlentaucher]


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Best Summer Books / Beach Reads / Young Adult Novels 2014: Recommendations

Underdog Literature May 2014

Here are 17 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention…

Young Adult. dystopias. middle grade fiction. beach reads.


01: PAUL ACAMPORA, „I Kill The Mockingbird“, 176 pages, May 2014. [Middle Grade]

I Kill the Mockingbird

02: E. LOCKHART, „We were Liars“, 240 pages, May 2014.

We Were Liars

03: MARIKO TAMAKI, „This one Summer“, 320 pages, May 2014. [YA Graphic Novel]

This One Summer

04: JASON REYNOLDS, „When I was the Greatest“, 240 pages, January 2014.

When I Was the Greatest

05: N.D. Wilson, „Boys of Blur“, 208 pages, January 2014. [Middle Grade Fantasy]

Boys of Blur

06: NON PRATT, „Trouble“, 384 pages, February 2014.


07: KATE RACCULIA, „Bellweather Rhapsody“, 340 pages, January 2014. [YA Mystery]

Bellweather Rhapsody

08: LAURA MARX FITZGERALD, „Under the Egg“, 247 pages, March 2014. [Middle Grade]

Under the Egg

09: MELISSA KANTOR, „Maybe One Day“, 384 pages, February 2014.

Maybe One Day

10: EMERY LORD, „Open Road Summer“, 342 pages, April 2014.

Open Road Summer

11: ANNIE CARDI, „The Chance you won’t return“, 352 pages, April 2014.

The Chance You Won't Return

12: ROBERT DINSDALE, „Gingerbread“, 421 pages, February 2014.


13: SARAH BETH DURST, „The Lost“, 352 pages, May 2014. [Dystopian YA, Book 1 of 3]

The Lost (The Lost, #1)

14: MATT HAIG, „Echo Boy“, 400 pages, February 2014. [Dystopian YA]

Echo Boy

15: MIKE CAREY, „The Girl with all the Gifts“, 416 pages, January 2014. [Dystopian YA]

The Girl with All the Gifts

16: CHARLES SWIFT, „The Newman Resident“, 337 pages, 2014. [Dystopian YA]

The Newman Resident

17: CLAIRE NORTH (Catherine Webb), „The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August“, 416 pages, January 2014.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August


More? Here are three new YA books that feature disabled main characters:

01: KIMBERLY ELKINS, „What is visible“, 320 pages, June 2014.

What Is Visible: A Novel

02: GAIL GILES, „Girls Like Us“, 224 pages, May 2014.

Girls Like Us

03: CAMMIE McGOVERN, „Say what you will“, 352 pages, March 2014.

Say What You Will


related Posts:


PROSANOVA Literaturfestival 2014, Hildesheim: Stimmen der Presse

Alle drei Jahre findet in Hildesheim PROSANOVA statt (Website), das Festival für junge deutschsprachige Literatur.

2011, als einen der ersten Beiträge in meinem Blogs, sammelte ich die Stimmen der Presse in einem Eintrag (Link).


2014 schrieb ich einen kurzen Text über die Festivals 2005, 2008, 2011 und das Immer-wieder-neu-nach-Hildesheim-Kommen für die PROSANOVA-Festivalzeitung (Link):


Hier gesammelt: die wichtigsten Pressestimmen zu PROSANOVA 2014 (29. Mai bis 1. Juni 2014, Hauptschule Alter Markt, Hildesheim).

1) „Hildesheim strotzt vor Selbstbewusstsein. Es hat dem deutschen Literaturinstitut in Leipzig den Ruf des etwas rebellischeren, angekratzten, dynamischeren voraus. Die Prosanova findet alle drei Jahre statt, weswegen die Veranstalter jede Menge Zeit haben, ein wundervolles Programm, eine wundervolle Atmosphäre zu erschaffen.“: Hannah Lühmann, ZEIT Online, „Wo sind hier die Germanistikhäschen?“

2) „Das Social Reading ist eindeutig einer der Höhepunkte des Festivals. Auch die Autoren scheinen sich in ihrer Doppelrolle als Autor und Lektor total wohl zu fühlen.“: Simone Schlosser, Deutschlandfunk, „Alles ist Literatur – oder eben auch nicht“

3) „Hier, im kleinen Biotop, wird nach allen Regeln der Kunst das literarische Feld beackert. „Der Literaturbetrieb ist auch irgendwie ein Schlangennest“, sagte Ina Hartwig, ihres Zeichens freie Literaturkritikerin. Ist hingegen das Festival, die Schreibschulen, das mit Watte ausstaffierte Versuchslabor, „die Simulation von Literaturbetrieb“ nur die kuschelige Komfortzone des giftigen Betriebs?“: Nadine Hemgesberg, Die Welt: „Ein Schlangennest, in dem man kuscheln kann“

4) PROSANOVA-Tagebuch auf, von Johannes Spengler u.a.:

5) „Im Innenhof der ehemaligen Hauptschule (Alter Markt 70), einem Schuklassen-Oberstufenraum-Party-Lounge-Traum – Sofas, Sessel, Stühle, Polster, Tischtennisplatten, überall was zum Sitzen, rumlungern, liegen eben – […] Zwanglosigkeit meets Literatur.“ Sylvia Kokot, Literatur und Feuilleton: „Prosanova also! Hildesheim also!“

6) Fotos „Später natürlich mehr darüber, wie Clemens Meyer eines Nachts eine Maus in seinem Bett fand, die somalische Piraterie und wie Jo Lendle, Annika Reich und Jan Brandt ihre Texte gegenseitig Korrektur lesen.“: „Erste Eindrücke aus Hildesheim“: Mara Giese im Buzzaldrin-Blog [noch weitere Beiträge kommen / folgen]

7) zu Florian Kessler, Ina Hartwig und Georg Dietz: „…weil es hier um etwas anderes geht als um die Würdigung zweier Kritiker: Nämlich um die Frage nicht nach der Notwendigkeit der Kritik, sondern nach idealtypischen Ausdrucksformen der Kritik. Wie soll Kritik sein? Bitte hören Sie hin & entscheiden Sie selbst.“ Oskar Piegsa auf „Wie soll Kritik sein?“

8) „Ein völlig größenwahnsinniges Unterfangen also, das überhaupt nur möglich ist, weil diese Studierenden dafür monatelang ihr Studium vernachlässigen oder ganz aussetzen, sich die Sache zu eigen machen, in ihr aufgehen. Wer die nötige Aufopferungsbereitschaft für den Größenwahn nicht schon mitbringt, wird vor Ort von den anderen angesteckt. Schon nach wenigen Monaten in Hildesheim konnte ich mir kaum noch vorstellen, dass dieser Ort und die Dinge, die wir dort taten, etwas anderes sein könnten als der glühende Mittelpunkt der Welt. Die Illusion ist perfekt: Weil die Stadt nichts hergibt, machen sich die Studierenden den kompletten Kulturbetrieb selbst. Eigenes Theater, eigene Filme, eigene Lesungen, eigene Kunst – und immer mit dem Blick nach vorn.“ grandioser Text von Viktor Kümel, Mitglied der künstlerischen Leitung von PROSANOVA 2011, auf dem Open-Mike-Blog: „Aus der Mitte meines Brustkorbs“

9) „Aber: Es gibt diesen Moment natürlich nicht, in dem eine Schule aufhört, eine Schule, oder ein Festivalgelände anfängt, ein Festivalgelände zu sein. Was wir machen, ist lediglich, die Lesart zu ändern, Dinge so zu verschieben, dass man darin neue Strukturen erkennen könnte […]. Eine Schule ist ein Ort, an dem man rechnet und heimlich raucht. Ein Festivalgelände ist ein Ort, an dem man sich volllaufen lässt und unbehelligt raucht.“ Juan Guse, Mitglied der künstlerischen Leitung von PROSANOVA 2014, im Logbuch Suhrkamp: „Gespräche mit Holz“

10) „Einige Zuschauer weinten während der Performance, andere, besonders Freunde von mir, ertrugen den Anblick nicht und verließen sie vorzeitig. Manche hatten Angst vor meiner Nacktheit. Manche kicherten. Manche flüsterten über meine Brüste, manche über meine Narben oder meine unrasierten Beine und andere über die Bekenntnisse an der Wäscheleine. Sie hatten alle Recht: Es ging sowohl um meine Brüste, als auch um meine Narben, meine unrasierten Beine und die Bekenntnisse an der Wäscheleine.“ Sirka Elspaß auf Tumblr über ihre Literatur-Performance „An Artist Should Not Lie To Himself Or Others“: „Kein Abstand, keine Umarmung. Rückblick: Performance“

Video von S. Fischer Hundertvierzehn / „Fragen wie Fichte“: „Auf dem PROSANOVA-Festival in Hildesheim haben wir sieben Autoren vor die Kamera gelockt und ihnen Fragen wie Fichte gestellt: Jan Brandt, Antje Rávic Strubel, Thomas Klupp, Benedict Wells, Martin Kordic, Annika Reich, Ferdinand Schmalz.“

11) „Der oberflächliche Blick auf das Soziotop, das sich zum vierten Hildesheimer Schreibschulliteraturfestival Prosanova versammelte […]: sehr weiß, sehr mittelschicht, sehr lässig postmaterialistisch gekleidet im Ulf-Poschardt-Herzkaschper-Stil. […] An der Festivalfrittenbude keine Fritten, sondern Chili sin carne. Umgangsformen: rempeliges Hier-komm-ich auf den Gängen, ansonsten gepflegt.“ Ekkehard Knörer im Merkur – deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken: „Et in Hildesheim ego: Prosanova 14“

12) „Erst im Nachhinein ist mir aufgefallen, wie nebensächlich es bei diesen Begegnungen wurde, ob jemand nun Romane, Gedichte oder Theaterstücke schreibt, Graphic Novels oder Songs, ob sie veröffentlicht sind oder nicht und in welcher Form, wie unhierarchisch das alles nebeneinander stand. Diese ganzen Kategorien und Eckdaten, sogar die biografischen, spielten kaum eine Rolle, in den seltensten Fällen wurde überhaupt anmoderiert, vorgestellt, eingeordnet, legitimiert. Das brauchte es gar nicht, die Autorinnen und Autoren waren einfach da: dort, wo sie sich selbst hingestellt hatten, ausgestattet mit den Waffen, die sie selbst frei gewählt hatten; sie sprachen für sich. Und man kann diese abenteuerliche Missachtung der Etikette nachlässig oder unhöflich finden, aber ich behaupte, dass sich gerade an solchen, vermeintlich unprofessionellen Stellen die ganze idealistische Radikalität zeigt, mit der dieses Festival seine eigenen Maßstäbe entwickelt […]“ Victor Kümels Festival-Fazit auf dem Open-Mike-Blog: „PROSANOVA 14: Literatur als Körperwissen“

13) „Die Ausstrahlung über die eigenen Kreise hinaus dürfte sehr gering geblieben sein. […] Bei den Eröffnungsreden fiel zwar immer wieder das Wort «Dringlichkeit». Dringlich wurde es jedoch nur, als Wolfram Lotz über Piraterie in Somalia und die Absurdität des Hamburger Piratenprozesses sprach. Im Übrigen drehte sich alles eher um die Frage, «wie wir leben wollen». Das Gespräch ging kaum über die privaten Lebensentwürfe hinaus. Gemeint waren mit dem «Wir» die Schreibenden selbst, vielleicht noch die Schreibschüler im Publikum. Es scheint, als sei es für angehende Autorinnen und Autoren wichtiger, herauszufinden, wie man als Schriftsteller leben muss, als was in der Welt gerade geschieht.“ Fabian Schwitter in der NZZ, „Das Literaturfestival Prosanova: Keine neuen Töne“

14) „PROSANOVA gehört für mich zu den Phänomenen, die man selbst erlebt haben muss. Zu den Phänomenen, die sich für Menschen, die nicht dabei gewesen sind, nur schwer beschreiben lassen. Als Literaturfestival lebt es natürlich vor allen Dingen von der Literatur, darüber hinaus hat es aber auch eine ganz besondere literarische Atmosphäre. Ich habe mich ein wenig gefühlt wie auf Klassenfahrt, überall traf ich auf Menschen, die eine ähnliche Begeisterung, Liebe, Obsession für Literatur haben, wie ich. Plötzlich habe ich mich nicht mehr wie ein seltsamer Literatur-Nerd gefühlt, sondern wie ein Teil eines Ganzen – aufgehoben, angekommen. Vielleicht war dieses Gefühl mein wahres PROSANOVA-Highlight“ Mara Giese in ihrem Blog,, „PROSANOVA: Eine Feier der Literatur“

15) 14) „Letztes Wochenende war PROSANOVA. Mein erstes Mal. Man bekommt dort eine Autorentasche mit weissen Mäusen und Schaumerdbeeren. Und eine großartige Lesung nach der anderen. Jan Brandt, Jo Lendle und ich haben zusammen ein neues Lesungsformat ausprobiert: #brandtlendlereich Social Reading.  Die Texte erschienen hinter uns auf einer Leinwand. Die Kommentare wurden eingeblendet und vorgelesen. Ich würde damit sofort auf Tour gehen […]“ Annika Reich in ihrem Blog, „Prosanova“

16) „Es ging in den letzten Monaten immer wieder um drängende Erfahrungen, Unzulänglichkeiten und Relevanzfragen der Gegenwartsliteratur. Nichts könnte nach diesem Festival der Wahrheit ferner liegen. Was hier zu sehen war, muss nicht gegen eine Wirklichkeit bestehen, die es zu übertrumpfen gilt. Die Gegenwartsliteratur muss sich nicht einmal zu etwas bekennen. Sie ist, soviel ist nach diesen vier Tagen klar, selbst schon längst ein Teil der Wirklichkeit, und es ist bereichernd ihr zuzuhören, wenn sie deklamiert, flüstert oder laut nachdenkt.“ Fabian Thomas und Ferdinand Schmalz [2 Texte], gemeinsam auf S. Fischer Hundertvierzehn: „PROSANOVA – was bleibt“

17) „Die Comic-Lesung Emotions can be expressed by the shape of a balloon ist sehr lustig und schön und ich will mir Aisha Franz‘ Comic über die Agenten-Hündin Brigitte kaufen. Wir kaufen 2 Flaschen Rotwein, nach der ersten merken wir noch gar nichts, wir sagen „Morgen kaufen wir 3 Flaschen, oder 4 oder 5!“. Später Drama, so ein Drama, das eben kommt, wenn man Rotwein trinkt. Ich hab das Gefühl, jeder, auf den ich zu tanzen, tanzt vor mir weg. Die Musik finden wir alle doof. Warum wir trotzdem erst um 5 im Zelt sind, kann ich mir nicht erklären.“ Sandra, Studentin am Deutschen Literaturinstitut in Leipzig, führte auf „Prosanova: ein Festival-Tagebuch“

…über mein PROSANOVA-Gespräch mit Kathrin Passig schreibt Sandra: 

Wir sind viele, das Gespräch zwischen Stefan Mesch und Kathrin Passig ist sehr nett und interessant. Und Stefan Mesch sollte man wohl wirklich auf Facebook folgen.“

vielen Dank!

Ekkehard Knörer schreibt zu meinem Gespräch und meinen Texten:

„Einen schönen Stunt gab es am Freitag: Kathrin Passig und Dirk von Gehlen sprechen über das Digitale und die Literatur. So war das angekündigt. Auf der Bühne aber alles verkehrt. Kathrin Passig mit einem riesigen Namensschild “Dirk von Gehlen” um den Hals. Dirk von Gehlen trägt das Namensschild “Kathrin Passig”. Sie vertreten des jeweils anderen Positionen und ziehen das ziemlich souverän durch. Es kommt allerdings so erheiternd wie erschwerend hinzu, dass Kathrin Passig (als Dirk von Gehlen) zwar Kathrin Passig ist, aber Dirk von Gehlen (als Kathrin Passig) ist nicht Dirk von Gehlen. Dargestellt wird er nämlich von Stefan Mesch, einem Hildesheim-Absolventen. Er ist einer, der die Sache mit der Literatur außerordentlich ernst nimmt. Seit Jahren schreibt er an seinem ersten Roman, er soll im Sommer 2015 fertig sein. Es gibt auch ein Blog. Stefan Mesch liebt die Liste, das Durchnummerieren. Im Irgendwas mit Schreiben-Band hat er ein 100-Punkte-Manifest in eigener Sache verfasst. Ein ziemlich toller Text, schonungslos, nicht auf einen Nenner zu bringen, offen, peinlich, ehrlich, narzisstisch, nicht auszurechnen. In Paragraph 18 bringt er die Schreibschulsache in subjektiver Richtigkeit auf den Punkt:

„Ich will nicht wissen, ob viele Texte/Kurzgeschichten, die ich in Hildesheim diskutierte und verbessern half, die allerletzten Geschichten waren, die meine Freunde schrieben. ‘Höchstens drei von euch machen später mit Romanen Karriere’, klärte Hanns-Josef Ortheil schon in Woche 1. Wir waren 14 Anfänger – und schreiben heute, zehn Jahre später, fast alle noch in irgend einer Form. Doch ‘Roman-Autor(in), veröffentlicht’ dürfen sich tatsächlich nur Kai und Nora nennen, bisher. Für mich war Hildesheim eine Schreib- und Lebensverhinderungsanstalt. ‘Durchlässig wie Badeschaum’? ‘Offene Türen’?! Oft half über Monate nur grimmiges Weiterschreiben – während Freunde heulten und den Kübler-Ross-Phasen des Aufgebens folgten wie in jeder anderen Casting- und Reality-Show, ihre Romanversuche löschten, Nischen der Kultur-Vermittlung suchten, die schneller Lob oder besser Bezahlung brachten. (Dass bei diesem Ausharren, Weiterschreiben, Sich-Nicht-Beirren-Lassen auch reiche Eltern oder ein Arztsohn-Ego helfen – klar!)“


…more to come (Süddeutsche Zeitung bisher nur in der Printausgabe!)

  • über 60 Fotos von mir (Link)
  • über 120 Fotos von Veronika Kaiser, Johanna Baschke und Marco Müller (Link)
  • fast alle Lesungen als Podcast / zum Nachhören bei (Link)

Mein Video zu Prosanova 2008 [ich war damals Teil der Künstlerischen Leitung]: