1000 Serpentinen Angst

I highly recommend the debut novel by Olivia Wenzel.

“Etwas, das damit einhergeht, eine neue, gesunde Angst in dein Leben zu lassen – eine Angst, tief, wärmer und zerreißender als jede Angst um dich selbst, dein Leben, deine identitären Beffindlichkeiten es je sein könnten: eine Angst, gebunden an eine Liebe, so stark wie alles, was du bisher kanntest, mal 1000.”

“Something that goes hand in hand with a new, healthy fear in your life – a fear that is deep, warmer and more tearing than any fear of yourself, your life, your identity sensitivities could ever be: a fear bound to a love, as strong as anything you knew before, times 1000.”

1000 Serpentinen Angst is the great first novel by Olivia Wenzel. While browsing a bookshop recently, a friend recommended the book to me, especially referring to the book’s treatment of racism experiences of a Black person in Germany. And the novel is about that – in part. It’s also about (Black) life, (Black) joy, (Black) insecurities and (Black) fear in Germany. I was most impressed by the passages on the main character’s struggle with anxiety and the impact the disorder had on her normal life, her friendships and love. I recognized some of it, but the experience of being a Black queer woman in Germany adds extra layers of fear and complexity to the illness. 

The story is told through constant dialogues between the main protagonist and a constantly shifting counterpart. The narrative form is fantastic, slightly experimental and really successful in transporting these complexities, more so than an omniscient narrator or inner monologues could. This narration of the protagonists life and her complex relationships, particularly to her loving yet racist grandmother and her ill and mostly absent mother, creates a tremendous pull. Fantastic.

The Nickel Boys

“The white boys bruised differently than the black boys and called it the Ice Cream Factory because you came out with bruises of every color. The black boys called it the White House because that was its official name and it fit and didn’t need to be embellished. The White House delivered the law and everybody obeyed.”

Colson Whitehead’s book after Underground Railroad tells the story of a reform school, the Black boys in the school, the devastating impact of the school and the system that enables it.

This novel has similar strengths (based on a true story, the concept, the research and historical truth behind the concept, the heft of the prose in the best parts) and weaknesses (underdeveloped secondary characters, the sometimes less inspired prose in transitional plot phases) as Underground Railroad. It’s still a great book that is important and deserving of its success and accolades.

But it also made me realize how the important, successful, critically acclaimed, powerful ™ books by and about Black people too often focus on (historical) hurt and pain. I could use some recommendations for important, successful, powerful ™ books about  Black joy. Not because books like Nickel Boys or Underground Railroad make white people like me uncomfortable – that’s the best part about Whitehead’s work – but because stories of joy and success need to be celebrated and supported, too. Especially in these times.

You or Someone You Know

I’m just going to go out on a limb here: You or Someone You Know by Worriers is my favorite record of the year. Such a perfect punk/power pop record – I listen to it when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m sitting in the sun on my balcony, when I have to work too long once again. Headphones, speakers, smartphone – it always sounds great. The production is flawless. So warm, so smart, so great.
The opening track, “End of the World” is the song of 2020:

Set my sights on the life that you get when you put the hard work in.
Only to be told, keep your fingers crossed that they vote you a person.
I apologize; you’ve been trying to go with the safer bet.
It’s true I didn’t think that far, but how do you plan for the death of a safety net?

What can I possibly say, is it me or the end of the world?
Cover your eyes and ears and hope I don’t notice and nothing hurts.
It must weigh on you a bit, but it’s not me that has to fix it.
Could you just hold on to me for now?

And their account is one of my favorites on Instagram, too.

You or Someone You Know is out on 6131 Records.

A Hero’s Death

“A Hero’s Death” is the new single by Fontaines D.C.
The video is a great downward spiral with a Birdman-vibe, starring Aiden Gillen.
The song is really terrific, and it soundtracked my end of the workweek yesterday. Sometimes hearing a postpunk reminder that

Life ain’t always empty
Life ain’t always empty
Life ain’t always empty
Life ain’t always empty
Life ain’t always empty
Life ain’t always empty

is just what you need to hear.

A Hero’s Death is out in July on Partisan Records. Last year’s Dogrel was one of my favorite records of the year, so I’m really excited about this one, too.

New Muff Potter (Sic!)

Muff Potter released a new single and I’m so excited, I even reactivated my blog.

Last year, when I stood in the crowd of a frenetic, fantastic reunion show in Munich, I realized just how much I missed Muff Potter. I swiped away a tear or two and desperately hoped this wouldn’t be a one time thing, and there would be new literary, angry pop music by my favorite band.

A bit more than a year later, here is a new great single “Was willst du” and I’m so excited, I even reactivated my blog.

Let’s call this a comeback.

(Get the single here. Via Muff Potter on instagram and a dm from my brother.)

“But perhaps the most striking and frightening aspect of the German flight from reality is the habit of treating facts as though they were mere opinions.”

Hannah Arendt The Aftermath of Nazi Rule – Report from Germany. (1950)

Hannah Arendt was born today in 1906. These days, her theories and commentary feels all too relevant.

You’re So Pretty When You Hate

Punk is really at its best when its angry and abrasive – and Deutsche Laichen, a decidedly queer feminist punk band from Göttingen, Germany, are really, really abrasive. Their self-titled debut LP is almost physical in its rejection of toxic masculinity, homophobia and (cis)sexism. Case in point: “Du bist so schön, wenn du hasst”, the standout song from the album:

Deutsche Laichen s/t is out now on Zeitstrafe.

“To Give a Being Like Me Language” – Akwaeke Emezi on Toni Morrison

After Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison died just a few days ago, I thought a lot about what her work meant to me, and I read a lot of tributes to her. The piece of writing that struck me most is this letter by nonbinary writer/ogbanje Akwaeke Emezi:

The elderspirit of you leapt into my head the day Professor Mayes played a VHS tape from her archive of an interview you gave after you won the Nobel Prize.
‘I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central. Claimed it as central, and let the rest of the world move over to where I was.’
Your words reached like an arm of fire out of that television screen, and I swear they were just for me. This is the you I know. It is no small thing to give a being like me language.”

Their letter was published by Them.

The letter may be the most beautiful, center-challenging – and in that combination most Morrison-like – piece I read these days. Morrison’s writing meant a lot to me, but I can barely start to understand what she meant to people who live closer to the edges than I do.