Thursday, June 25, 2020

A Modern Way to Die and Out of Breath, Out of Mind, Peter Wortsman's 2020 story collections

"Wortsman displays a savage descriptive edge, precise and crucial, that is as natural as it is canonically reminescent of the panEuropean urbanism of such writers as Robert Walser and Robert Musil" --Anthony Abbott in American Bookseller
"Wortsman hang(s) with the masters....Dozens of dangling avalanches for people with dreamer's block."--A. Scott  Campbell, The Boston Phoenix
"A fantastic book....Marvelous writing, wonderful craft; and the breath of imagination....(Wortsman) succeeded so well in his craft and art that it reads 'artless' and'spontaneous,' which to me is the highest of compliments.--"Herbert Selby, Jr., author of  Last Exit to Brooklyn.

We have more time to think and seek meanings in our Covid lives. Consider Peter Wortsman's words.  He creates strange universes of human life we think we know, and shows them singular in ways we might never have imagined. Peter Wortsman is the author of novels, books of short fiction, plays, and travel memoirs. He is also a literary translator from German into English. Wortsman was a Fulbright Fellow in 1973 and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2010. His writing has been honored with the 1985 Beard’s Fund Short Story Award,  the 2012 Gold Grand Prize for Best Travel Story of the Year in the Solas Awards Competition, and a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY). 
His travel reflections were selected five years in a row, 2008-2012, and again in 2016, for inclusion in The Best Travel Writing. His short fictions have appeared, in their original German, with English translations, most recently in the 2020 German-English volume Stimme und Atem (Out of Breath, Out of Mind) by Berlin's PalmArt Press ( and others in A Modern Way to Die, second edition published in 2020 in English by the U.S. publisher PELEKINESIS ( wortsman-a modern way to die) 
Shocking, funny, harsh and always unexpected, I follow his journeys prepared to be shorn of complacency and then; a sweet ending. Some short samples: 
Little Alien from the Planet Uterus
These spots and swirls resembling lunar scapes (transmitted, not from Outer, but from Inner Space) reveal the molten core of the Planet Uterus, its sole inhabitant soon to erupt, kicking up a cosmic storm, refusing to hold still for identification. The Technician takes a fuzzy likeness all the same. What will it want? What will earth look like on landing, its population towering perilously overhead?  Read this years hence, little alien from the Planet Uterus, and remember--your mother, her bulging belly being prodded by a high tech cattle prong; your father, benumbed bull peering fearfully over the technician's shoulder, asking: What is it?; and you, a reluctant neuter squiggle on the creen, a black hole, a big bang in the making--is there pleasure and pain where you are? 
How to Kill Time
It is not enough to merely strangle time. There's too much of it for that, and the very element you thought to release from its misery will tackle you in return and do you in. Try if you like to crush a second, noisome mosquito, a swarm of others will sting you in its wake and make you wish you were no longer that swollen aching mass of me.
I have tried to drown it, asphyxiate it, disembowel and decapitate (all the medieval techniques), and even to deny its existence--nothing doing!
The only effective method I have found for temporarily immobilizing (if not obliterating) time is to take pleasure in its passing.

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