Saturday, August 27, 2011
The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.
This is not about a singular book, but about 3 novels by H.G. Wells in the Berkley Highland mass market paperback editions. I bought and read them, when I was 9 years old. For many years they were the most cherished books in my possession till my Dad one day gave them away to the library of the German-American Institute here in Regensburg. They might still be there,
As many boys at that age I was an enormous fan of science fiction, and before I started reading these books, I had already seen the film adaptations. I guess I came upon H.G. Wells as the auther responsible for these movies and assumed (naively, but quite correctly) that this must be an important name in science fiction. The book covers of these Berkley Highland editions were so thrilling I had to get the books, and even when I was not reading I'd spend a lot of time simply delving into the fantastic world of these cover illustrations. I'm not certain, but I think the artist of these book covers was Richard Powers.
I can remember two stories concerning these books. I was in the 3rd grade at St. Peter's School in Kirkwood, Mo., and one of my best friends was an African-American kid with the name of Clarence Smallwood. His older borther was in the 8th grade and heard that I have these H.G. Wells novels, and so he borrowed The Invisible Man from me. Many weeks later my class teacher Mrs. Burke came to me before class, handed me the book and told me an 8th grader was giving this back to me with thanks. She was absolutely perplexed and a bit disbelieving that I was reading such literature. Although it was a bit flattering, I was more concerned about the condition of the book. My pal's brother obviously had read the book intensively...
At the same time our English teacher, Miss Knabe, gave us a long term project to read books and to write book reports on what we had read. The library she had assembled was full of children literature that didn't quite appeal to me. I asked her, since I was already reading The War of the Worlds, if I could make my report on it. She was more than delighted by the idea and gave me a special status, since the reading would take up so much more time than any of the other books. So while the other kids were in a competition who could write the most reports I just sat there going on with my novel. It almost looked like I wouldn't even get this one book report done, so I quickly shoved in 2 reports on books from the class library, but in the end I did manage to finish The War of the Worlds after all. I guess I got extra points for having read the most sophisticated book.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
In 1981 I made a six-week grand tour of the United States with 2 of my pals. We started with New York City and from there it was Florida, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Los Angeles, St. Louis and then back for a full week in NYC. Besides sightseeing I intended to get to as many record stores as possible and find rare stuff that you couldn't get in Europe. Of course I was successful. However, I did have the stupid idea to bring along some German records, hard-to-get music on independent labels, which I thought I could trade in at some stores. Well, nobody had ever heard of the likes of bands like Missus Beastly, a 70s fusion rock band, so I never got rid of them. At one small second-hand record store in St. Louis which had a wonderful variety of rare and obscure titles I tried to do the trade-in, but there, too, they said no. So I did ask whether there was any interest in German or European music at all. "Oh yes", the store owner replied. "I'll pay any price for a Conrad Schnitzler album." Well, I was only vaguely familiar with that name, Schnitzler was a founding member of the German electronic band Tangerine Dream and later with Kluster, afterwards releasing and distributing his work all on his own. At that time I didn't have much respect for that kind of music and was a bit surprised there was a market in the States for German electronic music. I assume it was initiated by Kraftwerk's success in the USA. Conrad Schnitzler remained a hardly known experimental composer and he released a last album, Consequenz 010B, a collaboration with Wolfgang Seidel, a few weeks ago. Conrad Schnitzler died from stomach cancer in the evening 4 August 2011.