Kassel Jaeger / Stephan Mathieu / Akira Mathieu Zauberberg

[Shelter Press; 2016]

Styles: history/memory, translation, aura
Others: Mann, Ibsen, Frank

An ordinary young man was on his way from his hometown in Freehold to a theater in Bordentown, New Jersey, where he would recite the lines from Hedda Gabler that he had not yet memorized.

It was a long trip, however, from Freehold to Bordentown — too long, really, to skip coffee. The ordinary young man stopped at the Starbucks on 537, the one between the Hallmark Store and the GameStop, which used to be EB Games, which used to be farmland, which used to be untilled continent, which used to be a Hadean lava field.

The barista, Sung, the one who missed the EB Games, thumbed his naked upper lip. “What’s with the mustache?”

The ordinary young man, Frank, touched his upper lip.

“It’s for a show,” said George Tesman from the condiment bar, squeezing honey from a plastic bear into an iced tea.

“For a show,” said Frank.

“Nice. Know all your lines?”

“No!” said George Tesman, happy, snorting, and scribbling his iced tea with a stirrer. Three ice cubes spilled over onto the countertop.

The ordinary young man smiled, grimaced, collapsed into a booth. He unfolded his cellar spider legs around the pillar that held the table up, felt the sharp ping in his left knee. Leftover pain from falling off a bike? Weak Irish knees from his mother’s side? He thumbed the place below his nostrils, felt the alien hair, considered his patella and his palette. The hair in the mustache was still ungrayed, mostly, and the arthritis that would stoop and humble him 30 years later was still fermenting jelly in the cartilage. He opened the Word document.

“Like it’s teasing you, yeah?” said Thomas Mann, sitting across from him. Thomas Mann wiped the raspberry scone crumbs from his whiskers. “That cursor. Blink, blink. Blink.”

Thomas Mann frowned. “Is that a Seinfeld bit?”

“It is!” said George Tesman, sweeping out a single gesture that was both sitting at the neighboring table and knocking over the cup of iced tea. The gesture became a shrug, and Tesman shrank to the floor with napkins.

“Ah , fuck. Yeah,” said Thomas Mann, looking at the cracked Android. “Seinfeld.”

The ordinary young man, Frank, opened his mouth. “Guys, I really have to.” He blinked. No one cut him off.

“Learn your lines,” said George Tesman, on all fours. “Uhhr… learn my lines.”

“Write that review,” said Thomas Mann. He sighed, clapped his hands to get rid of phantom scone crumbs. “An audible auratic journey through the memories of a place lost in the heights of the Swiss mountains, ” said Mann.

A monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, that pulses with life in the midst of death, ” said Tesman.

The ordinary young man, Frank, shook his head. Thomas Mann shook his.

“Frank, what are you doing?” asked the voice from the mouth below the mustache, which belonged to Thomas Mann (wrote The Magic Mountain , unopened and unread on the table, unhelpful for music reviews), which belonged to George Tesman (husband of Hedda Gabler who only breathed behind the fourth wall), which belonged to Joseph Falisi, (father who wanted to help his offspring do okay, even if he sometimes said, “but Frank, what are you doing?” before coffee was consumed), which belonged to Frank (the ordinary young man with the funny foreign mustache who looked a little like all these people).

He looked at what he’d typed in the Word document, smiled at its pukey optimism, its poached cheer, its blatant unfinishedness:

An ordinary young man was on his way.

Links: Shelter Press

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