It is Done

It is done. The memoir, that is. All ten chapters (c.70, 000 words in total) have been published online, free of charge, for your reading pleasure. Could I be more munificent?

Granted, the manuscript is not in perfect form. There are some errors along the way: misspellings, lost words and such-like. This is unfortunate, and not wholly the fault of my restless typists. When time bestows upon me several truckloads of hours, minutes and seconds, I will endeavour to put this straight. In the meantime, I am confident that the book does me proud. I believe that I have tackled a difficult subject to the best of my uncertain ability – and stand by the results, whatever one thinks of them.

In other news, I will shortly be taking another break from this blog. Relocation to a different country, coupled with a surprisingly busy work load, means that this particular blackboard will see little chalk for the next few months.

Whilst I’m away, allow me to remind you that there is always a lot to read (and re-read) in these regions. Over seven hundred posts on this blog alone, and over a hundred edifying essays on my sister site. Browse, by all means, but don’t forget that words are there to be read, not glanced at. It is in this spirit, indeed, that I have decided to stop updating for a while. I have written more than enough on the topic of obscure European literature during the last seven or eight years, yet very few of my ponderings have, I suspect, been chewed over as methodically as they deserve. Perhaps the power of my contribution to his little-watered field has yet to be fully appreciated? Let us hope so.


There is no such thing as an experimental novel. All novels are experiments. A novel that takes liberties with the ‘usual form’ of the novel, or the ‘standard rules’ of writing is no more experimental than any other novel. To say that it is so is to insult it; to suggest that it is a lesser form of writing – whereas it is, in fact, the ultimate form of writing. The insult hints at something half-formed; a piece of writing ‘on the way’ to becoming ‘properly completed’. This is ridiculous. No piece of writing was ever properly completed. Everything we do is experimental.

Readable in Parts

The ‘big talk’ of 2013 (aside from ‘everything else’) was undoubtedly my memoir Conservations with Speyer. Here are some carefully selected quotations from some of the more recent reviews:

‘It takes a while to get going, and once it does, you wish it would stop’.

‘Speyer, an interesting and flawed man, is well served by this interesting and flawed memoir’.

‘Mr. Riecke has an eye for details – usually the wrong ones. When he should be pulling apart the contradictions in Speyer’s philosophy, he is musing about cats in the professor’s garden.’

‘If you’re one of the five people in the world still interested in Johannes Speyer, this book might be for you’.

‘Mr. Riecke has taken the kindly step of publishing his memoir online in installments. Is this because it isn’t good enough to be published on paper, all at once? Most probably – but the act remains a generous one; for the rainforest, if not for his readers’

‘Riddled with typos, and badly in need of a good editor, Conversations with Speyer is nevertheless readable in parts’.

Being a modest fellow I have, of course, held the more positive comments back. Rest assured, they would make a spider blush.

The Gaps Between Chat

With some people we live our lives. With most people we talk about lives lived, or lives about to lived, or lives that will never be lived. We talk about the lives we’d like to live, the lives we should live, and what life would be like if we could only live it properly. We talk about action past and action future. To put it another way, life is largely made up of conversations about life. There is very little actual living, and rather a lot talk about it. Life is what happens in the gaps between chat.

The penultimate part: Chapter Ten, Part One

A Couple of Regular St. Jeromes

‘One day we climbed up a mountain in search of a tarn, just so Johannes could say he’d read in a tarn. Only it turns out that this tarn wasn’t the tarn he was looking for. So we went up another mountain, books stuffed under our arms, in search of another. Once we reached that, he did his reading, whilst I paddled about in the reeds. Then back down the mountain we went. He was never satisfied. Always on the move in those days; always looking for the next opportunity. Did you ever see one of those paintings of St. Jerome in the desert, sitting in a cave, surrounded by books? Yes? Well, we were a couple of regular St. Jeromes, wandering about the wilderness with a portable library…’

Conversations with Speyer, Chapter Seven, Part Three

The Fire of Experiment

As might be expected of such ambitions, pursued as they were under difficult economic circumstances, by two somewhat over-idealistic young men, things ran as smoothly as a broken lawnmower. Speyer nearly drowned, not once, but four times – and no less than two hundred books were deemed to have been rendered ‘unreadable’. This last detail has always struck me as particularly ironic: the main point of the project, after all, was to make books ‘more readable’; to prise open the damp shell of their secrets, rather than send them to a watery grave. Speyer, though, was never scared of making sacrifices. If anything, he was a little too fond of throwing himself, and his books, on the fire of experiment.

Conversations with Speyer: Chapter Seven, Part Two

As Doth the Stubborn Turd

I hope you will believe me when I say that I am not naturally inclined towards material of a scatological nature. No doubt my wife would disagree; all I can say in my defence is that I have never sought out culture of this kind, but that – being an expert of obscure European literature – I find it inevitably surfaces, as doth the stubborn turd, from time to time.

To put it another way, I’d rather not dwell on the relationship between defecation and creativity, were it not that I felt duty bound, on occasion, to do just that.

This is undoubtedly one of those occasions. After all, anyone who has read the latest published excerpt from my ground-breaking memoirs will have noticed that an entire section was devoted to this very indelicate subject. The subject, that is, of reading ‘in lavatorio’, also known as ‘bogging’, ‘restroomeading’, and ‘shiterature’. In short, letting the words go in whilst the waste goes out (and the curious benefits therewith).

Today, however, I would like to shift the focus onto a second form of defecatory creativity, which, for the purposes of this discussion, we may as well call ‘urinal reading’.

One’s regular sojourn to the standard urinal does not last terribly long: this much we know. Hardly long enough, you’d fancy, to get any serious reading done. Where there’s a challenge, though, there’s almost always an obscure European writer willing to take on that challenge. Enter, in this case, Egor Falastrom, author of the vaguely popular Dark Dreams of  Delirious Dog-Catcher (and like-minded titles). Seeing a gap in the market, Falastrom has just released a series of poems designed to be read whilst standing at an urinal. Poems for Pissing, by all accounts, is already something of a success in his native country. ‘Falastrom has transformed the very nature of a piss,’ writes one critic, ‘changing it from a rather tedious task to a moment of transcendent, gushing, illumination’. For the first time in local history, men have been seen queuing for the toilet.

As for women, well, it seems they will have to wait. As yet, Falastrom is only posting his poems above urinals. He hopes to expand the art form, however, before too long. ‘I see myself, in future, on the back of all toilet doors in Turkey’, he told one magazine. Does this mean that he will be competing with Tosca Calbirro, originator of the toilet-paper novel? Not at all, claims Falastrom. His poems are designed for ‘pissing people only’. The ‘poo form’ he leaves to other, more experienced, practitioners.