No, this post isn’t about Valentine’s Day at all. It’s about humor and the blackness at the back of your throat when the humor is dark as the darkest night and you can’t decide if you should laugh or be scared. German humor used to be black and boisterous before the Nazis smothered it with their special brand of deadly petit bourgeoisie and brutal narrowness.
Karl Valentin, the haggard hunk in the picture on the left, was a German Charlie Chaplin, a genius performer, writer and movie maker (together with his partner the divine Liesl Karlstadt) who shaped the culture of the Weimar republic, Germany’s wonderful, surrealist, dada-infused paradise of naked creativity between war I and war II.
Take a look at “Der Firmling” (‘the candidate’), a short film (1934) about a confirmand who is taken to a restaurant by his father after the confirmation ceremony. The father is drunk to begin with and gets even more drunk in the course of the movie which is both a vaudeville act and serious clownery, touching upon a number of existentialist issues during its only 25 minutes’ duration.
“Why is he laughing? – Well, he is young. That’s no reason to laugh. I was young too, I was may be even younger than him.” — Karl Valentin in “Der Firmling”.
And now that I got your attention for humor and what it can do, let’s talk about the other Valentine after all. Because there’s a new book out just in time for Valentine’s (not the German guy, the heart occasion), edited by the fabulosa Susan Tepper, that won’t give you cardiac arrest but it also won’t leave you cold because it contains stories and poems by:
Doug Bond, Angela Brett, Estelle Bruno, Sheldon Lee Compton, Sara T. Einhorn, David Erlewine, Susan Gibb, Frank Hinton, Matt Kang, Dorothee Lang, Ryan McDermott, John Minichillo, Kevin Paul Myrick, Nora Nadjarian, Ajay Nair, Gabriel Orgrease, Derek Osborne, Meg Pokrass, Sam Rasnake, Beate Sigriddaughter, Paul Steven Stone, Miles Tepper, Susan Tepper, xTx
If that’s not enough for you to consider buying it: I’ve got a story in there, too, “Rose Petals” — here’s the audio version (2’15”) as a taster read by the inimitable, the incompatible, the infinitesimal Flawnt.
Buy the book here for your sweet heart. And a last Valentin for the road:
“Everything has already been said, just not by everyone.” — Karl Valentin