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Jan Herman

Jan Herman

Posted: April 14, 2010 08:39 AM

A New Book the Censors Won't Love

What's Your Reaction:

A new novel hits the bookshelves in Vienna, and the Austrian television network ORF interviews the author on the news. Try getting a novelist interviewed on the evening news in America. Never happens. Besides, we're talking about a book called Manhattan Muffdiver, not exactly a title that U.S. network censors would approve.

It's not altogether surprising that books and writers are TV news in Austria, the land of K&K -- Kunst und Kultur. Austria lives for culture. Although I suppose ORF might have hesitated if it knew the meaning of "muffdiver."

Certainly some of the reviewers knew. Berlin radio called the book "as obscene as it is brilliant." But that would likely not have caused a problem. (Have a look at this Dutch TV commercial.)

What's more, there's an aura of glamour associated with the author, due to his renown as the unrivaled German translator of Burroughs, Bukowski, Dylan, Zappa, not to mention Ginsberg, Algren, Leonard Cohen, and many others. Which must have helped sell ORF on a news interview. (Click photo for ORF interview.)

Full disclosure: The author is an old friend. I published his first novel, The Braille Film. It was written in English. Another friend published his second novel online, Death in Paris. It too was written in English. Manhattan Muffdiver is Carl Weissner's third novel, written in German this time. It started off as emails he sent to friends from New York, and reads like a diary. But he elevated the facts, embroidered them with fiction. The result is literature. Here's a sample:

I have a new hangout a street behind the Edgar Allan Poe Café. It's called NO PORK ON MY FORK because it's an Islamic joint. I waltz in and say:

"Hey, towel heads. I'm an agent provocateur with the FBI. I have an idea for you. We should blow the Trump Tower to smithereens. What do you think, huh?"

"You can't be serious," a long beard protests.

"Maybe if you'd learn to shove all that falafel into your filthy mouth instead of your ears," I say ... and in the next instant there is the sound of breaking glass and crashing furniture and a chorus of "Kill that motherfucker! Al-Hamdulillah! "

Always these nightmares.