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October 23, 2009 / schulerbooks

One Man’s Trash…: The Distant Lover

Digressions Abound Avoiding Inevitable Insecurity In Christoph Hein’s Novel

I’m on top of the world. My one arduous online class has come to an end, the holiday season is fast approaching, and I just got my first piece of new NHL-spec goalie equipment, a steeply discounted full-right Itech 9.8 catch glove. Could life be more perfect, you ask? Heh heh h-NO. But before some wiseacre can deflate my exaggerated sense of self-worth, I’ve made it a healthy habit of doing so myself. But understand, it wasn’t intentional that I synced my purchase of The Distant Lover to perfectly coincide with my first screening of Drag Me To Hell, which although ridiculously hilarious still required a calm-down reading period that lasted until 3:45 in the morning!

c9e9024128a0b4e443140110_L__SL500_AA240_There’s probably one grad student who’ll tell me I have it all wrong about Christoph Hein’s novel, that I’m missing the ‘whole point’ and that my ‘shallow mis-interpenetration,’ which I’ll ‘predictably’ mistake for misinterpretation, of the central conflict (which I’ll now spell like konflicht because the author’s German like me and it looks cooler) has me ‘proving the insipidity of western hypocrisy’ and making a ‘studio audience judgment call’ I ‘can’t be blamed for, having been influenced for decades before my birth by an ignorant and inadmissibly boorish political arena that can’t admit to defeat.’ So you should all feel sorry for me, because I can’t see the beauty of sexual depravity.

But you can’t feel sorry yet, because I have yet to read the book and you can’t offend a grad student until after you’ve insulted his idol (ha ha, that was a joke, everything offends them). Really, I don’t expect The Distant Lover to be bad, just incredibly depressing. But depressing things can be fun and enlightening. Any step forward results in added experience, and I place a high value on building character. Thanks, Bill Watterson.

The Distant Lover popped out at me during a cursory surf of Used Books, and something about the thin paperback title’s simple wording and urgently capitalized title agitated me. But fate is neither kind nor fair. The book next to it was Richard Hell’s Go Now. A distant lover? Or a guy named Dick Hell? I had Alison Lohman on one shoulder and Rose Byrne on the other. “Lover,” says Alison. “Hell,” says Rose. “Which reminds me,” says Alison, “Drag Me To Hell debuts unrated on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, October 13.” “I haven’t seen it,” I say. Rose laughs. “It’s good enough to buy,” says Alison. “I already have Matchstick Men, can’t you be happy?” I say. “Even though Rose was in Sunshine and 28 Weeks Later, she starred in Damages, and I know how much you hate TV,” says Alison. “Blast!” Rose and I shout. She snaps her pitchfork in two and disappears. Alison high-fives my thumb and disappears.

So I forwent Hell’s roadtrip book (thank goodness) for Christoph Hein’s exploration of emotional vacuousness and purposelessness in East Germany. One konflicht solved. One more to explore. I’m expecting a superfast read that will leave me emotionally drained and faithless in anything pure and good for at least two days. I’ll try my best not to mope, but it may be tough, no matter how rewarding it will be. To paraphrase Ellen Griswold, I don’t know what to say except it’s East Germany, and we’re all in misery.

-Patrick, Schuler Books

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