Call me Joseph…

There was, for instance, the way he moved from topic to topic, like a water-skater skipping lightly across a lake, never stopping long before slipping beneath the surface. Or the way he constantly asked my questions, but never waited to listen to the answers. I noticed, also, that he drank fast, glass after glass, almost without registering it –  and with little discernible effect, save the slightest glisten in his nut-brown eyes. ‘Call me Joseph’ he implored, even when I had done. The insistence on his first name troubled me, suggesting a level of intimacy that was never remotely within reach. If our forename represent our true selves, the man I was speaking to was not Joseph. It was only ever Grünnerwald.

Part Two of Chapter One: available here.

History fumbles its lines once more…

History relates how I came to Berlin to study under Speyer. History fumbles its lines once more. I did not come to Berlin for that purpose at all, and had I done so it would have been in vain, for Speyer was not living in Berlin at that time. He still owned a small flat there – though by all accounts he never used it.

The first part of Chapter One is up. Contain your excitement, readers, please…

The Fizziest Bubble in My Glass…

He has, I could say, been a constant presence; the tallest tree in my intellectual garden; the fizziest bubble in my glass of lemonade; the loudest… but no, let us not vulgarise our relationship so. Let us not over-egg the pudding either. I have taken issue with Speyer, after all, over the years. I will not stand by every one of his weird and wonderful ideas. And yet, for all this, I think I can safely say that Johannes Friedrich Speyer has, besides my wife, been the most significant and influential figure in my life.

The memoir continues

Memoir (3)

The first time I wrote this it was better – or so I thought. The truth is that it was different. Exactly how different I cannot say, lest I should mistake a shadow for the object casting it. And what would be the good of that? ‘If the text is not in front of you,’ said Speyer, ‘it does not exist’. Evidently he wasn’t a man to trust his memories, which is one reason why he shied away from writing autobiography. Another reason is that he ran out of time.

The first, short, instalment of my recently-penned memoir, Conversations with Speyer, is now online. Read it here. Further instalments will follow next week.

Memoir (2)

The response to my announcement that I will releasing my memoirs of Johannes Speyer this year has been nothing if not lively. From the high hills of Scotland to the deep caves of Cornwall, people have been talking of little else. And their comments, so far as I can tell, fall into several distinct camps.

To start with, there are those who are over-excited – and who can blame them? It’s not every day that someone writes a memoir of Johannes Speyer and releases it, free of charge, on the internet. Some have even suggested that a day be put aside for a national celebration, though I confess that this is, I think, more than the occasion merits. A half-day of celebration will be quite enough, thank you.

Other people thirst for further details. When will the first instalment be released? (this weekend, I fancy). Will there be illustrations? (despite the interest of several high-profile artists, no). Will it be available in other languages? (not unless you care to translate it yourself). How long is it? (I haven’t counted). Is it worth reading? (clearly, yes).

Lastly, I have to note the presence of a handful – just a handful – of naysayers. These human worms are putting forward all kinds of curious claims, none of which have any basis in reality. They argue, for instance, that the memoir is being released online because it isn’t ‘good enoug’h to ‘deserve’ a physical copy. This is, I think, a tired old argument, borrowed from the early days of the internet, if not the hey-days of ignorance. In these troubled times of ours, it is no longer fair to presume that decent writing can only be found in a book shop. In fact, the world is crawling with decent writing, and very little of it can be found in book shops. You only have to enter a book shop to appreciate this.

The naysayers are also putting forward the rumour that this project consists of ‘a hundred percent hype and zero percent content’. One man has even gone so far as to claim that I haven’t even written the memoir; that I am, in effect, publicising a non-existent product. This, I can assure you, is the purest baloney one can hope to find outside of a baloney factory. The thing is written, and once it is read you will be able to see for yourself, I trust, that the ‘hype’ (such as it is) is more than justified.


As recently noted, I spent a fair amount of the last year penning a memoir. This was a long overdue project, one which I had been turning over in my head for several years; so many years, in fact, that I had begun to fear the thing would never find its fickle way onto paper.  As with the finest wines, however, I like to think that this memoir gained greatly from the length of time it spent strolling through the sunlit channels of my over-brimming brain. It was clearly maturing up there, biding its merry time before spilling joyfully from the tap of my imagination in an eager, entertaining gush.

I may be wrong: this may be the most tiresome memoir ever penned. Worse, even, than Niklas Naramaratov’s With a Brief Grin: Memoirs of a Gun-Toting Madman, or Alexander Rottenberg’s sixteen volume Factory Days. It is not impossible that the reason that this is the first ever memoir about the late great Johannes Speyer is testament to the fact that no one has ever, or will ever, have any need for such a book. To my credit, yet, I am at least granting my readers the opportunity to lightly dismiss or disparage the work without the loss of a single banknote. Yes indeed: Conversations with Speyer (for so it is called) will be available free of charge, in a series of instalments, to all who care to read it. Exactly how many instalments I have yet to decide; so too the length of each instalment. The important thing is that the work is written, and that this is the year in which it will be sent out into the world.

More on this very shortly…