I was thrilled to receive two copies of Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm in my mail at the station a couple of weeks ago. Although there wasn’t any return address on the package, or note inside, I suspect it was sent by Mr. Michael Horatio Kelly, who is a close personal friend of Herr Haarburste. Mr. Kelly is himself a writer, and was a guest on the book-club show I did a few years ago.
Because Mr. Kelly is in England, I asked Station Manager Ken if it would be okay to phone him from the studio and do a live interview, and because Mr. Kelly is in England, Station Manager Ken said no. So naturally I decided to email my questions to Mr. Kelly, and take Mr. Kelly’s emailed replies, and perform the interview on-air by reading my questions and having Jack Dinsmore, the scary disembodied ventriloquist’s dummy head, read Mr. Kelly’s answers. So I did that for a bit until I got tired about a third of the way through, and then Sluggo took over reading Mr. Kelly’s answers, and meanwhile Mr. Kelly was in England, furiously typing “I had nothing to do with this!” on his Web site.
I think it was my finest moment as a WFMU DJ.
When the station put together the “Great Moments in WFMU History” trading card set, I proposed my interview with Mr. Kelly as a Great Moment. Maybe it was too hard to explain on a trading card, though, or maybe they were concerned that the sight of Jack Dinsmore’s disembodied head would be too shocking for the more sensitive Listeners, because they went with the story of me and Kenny G’s penis, which Sluggo didn’t know about until he finally saw the cards last month and now Kenny G had better stay in Switzerland if he knows what’s good for him.
Anyway, I believe it’s because of my longstanding interest in Mr. Kelly’s work that I was the lucky recipient of Herr Haarburste’s book, and I have just finished reading it, and here’s where the review starts:
Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm is the greatest novel of the 21st Century (so far). It begins with five short stories about wrapping Roy Orbison in clingfilm (a.k.a. plastic wrap in the US), and just when you’re thinking, “Well, these are amusing, but no one could possibly stretch this premise any further,” Herr Haarbuste launches into a novella that is a true tour de force. Not since Tristram Shandy has an author so skillfully—and amusingly—maintained such a shaggy-dog premise. The complex, self-reflexive repetition and reconfiguration of certain elements is reminiscent of a Bach fugue.
When I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement, I felt like there was no sense in anyone ever writing a novel again. I’m glad to say I was wrong. The world would be a poorer place without Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm.
The book concludes with three more short stories written in ostensible German. In the way that Spanglish relates to Spanish, so the language in these stories relates to German; I guess they’re in Deutschlish. But they’re just as funny as anything else in the book. Das besitzensuchenzugenmachenubergruppenschnurpenplastische indeed.
The only way to get your own copy of Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm is to order it direct from Troubador Publishing Ltd. in England. Oh, calm down—it’s no harder than ordering something from Amazon, and it’s a lot easier than ordering Yi Soon Shin DVDs from Korea. You can’t order Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm from Amazon anyway, because Herr Haarburste had to publish it himself. The idea that this brilliant work of real genius was turned down by publishers is like Van Gogh never selling a painting during his lifetime. Someday anybody who’s left after the big Global Climate Change will find it hard to believe that people in our time did not shower Herr Haarburste with the prizes, accolades, and key to the city of Dusseldorf he so richly deserves.
Thanks for reading my blog post this time, and may God Bless.
And I'm not kidding about that book, either. I mean it.