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Sunday, October 11, 2015


Felix Lamm

Looking at my photos of Leipzig, x larry wondered if Germans, especially the young, are filled with cynicism and self-loathing, so I responded, "I haven't been here two weeks, so I can't say much, but walking at least 10 miles today, I saw so much graffiti, some on brand new, gorgeous buildings, that I thought, There is a lot of anger and frustration here, if not a collective self-hatred. Why else would you deface your own city like this?

On the streets, the body language of the people, young and old, does not betray hatred or frustration, however. People are relaxed and friendly. Last week, Olliver and I had coffee at a serene eatery inside a park and it was so calming to see families just relaxing. There was no music, just talking. Years ago, I sat in a quiet beer garden in Berlin with my friend, poet Nguyen Quoc Chanh, and we were like, This is perfect.

Many Americans go out of their way to exude toughness, so the Germans, by comparison, are much more relaxed and, yes, gentle. During my two years in Italy, I found the teens there so much more innocent and relaxed compared to ours. They didn't try to come off as ready to kick your ass."

To illustrate what I mean by a relative calmness and indifference to appearing homicidal, I post the above image of Felix Lamm, the welterweight boxing champion of Germany. The dude is 10-1, so he's no Germknödel, but just look at the champ with his glasses. Would any American boxer pose like that?


1 comment:

x larry said...

oh i hate that american machismo shit that pervades everything: every stage of life after (now) about age 4, every job (i even experienced much of this as a secretary at a vet's in 'laid back' denver--from a certain vet tech and my motherfucking prick of a boss), every drive down the road, every public place, to of course not even mention, say, bars.
also, i got a pang when i read above your love of a 'quiet beer garden'. it sounds beautiful. i'll never forget my first experience of european quiet, at the hostel where i was staying in southern spain's bar/lobby: no tv, rarely any music (no jukebox; now and again someone would quietly play a cassette tape from the kitchen--they let me bring in stuff if i felt like it, so on some wild nights got to play the beach boys, for instance). people just talked, took it slow. sometimes some local spanish would come in for a quick game of pool. mostly it was backpacking tourists, forced (if american) to take it slow. what a fucking riot we had sometimes! english pubs back then were still much the same--no tv, most importantly, and usually no music. that has mostly changed, but (as you know and i look forward to experiencing for two solid days with you) they're still very congenial, laid back places unless it's 'chavvy' with some football match on.
but, to get back to my main point, the american macho dickhead causes untold psychical damage, and makes the hugest contribution to the deranged, fearing and fearful, moronic national psyche.
big up y'all!
ps just listened to yet another uplifting modern rap group, the flatbush zombies--i found them looking up palm trees for a horticulture course i'm taking, they have a song called 'palm trees' i think


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.