Until four years ago, Megel-Nuber worked as the director of a traveling theater troupe for children, bringing culture and live performance to parts of France that weren’t necessarily equipped for such shows. It inspired him to continue an itinerant lifestyle, but one that carried a mission or project to share with the people he encountered.
Actually making his roving bookstore real, however, required much more effort than he expected. Megel-Nuber—an imposing-looking man with a gentle, natural ease with people—spent six months just trying to conceive of its form and shape.
“Since I was going to be spending a lot of time there, it had to be a space where I felt good, so I couldn’t imagine anything other than wood,” he says. “And it’s logical: After all, books are made of paper.”
While linguists have long rejected the borough accent, Becker and Newlin-Lukowicz bring data to their argument. They proved that New Yorkers themselves can’t make out the difference between Brooklynese and the sounds of other boroughs.
“Don’t you think I look like Hitler?” I asked.
“Not at all,” said Craig. “You look great.”
Then I went to the fake interrogation room to pretend to yell at the beautiful young woman. This was not the tattooed woman, but her friend. The interrogation room had a one‑way mirror in it, and from time to time I would catch myself in it and get mad. Ugh, I would think. Look at Hitler over there, yelling at that nice woman. Between takes I would finger‑comb my hair back to try to de‑Hitlerize it a little. Then Craig would just sneak up behind me before the cameras rolled and re‑Hitlerize it.
“You don’t look like Hitler!” he would whisper as he finished.
Love, according to this collection, doesn’t just transcend the gender distinctions which structure our everyday lives, but the chronological ones too. Our attempts to consign our former lovers to the past — to ‘move on’, as it were — are rendered futile by the simple fact that love never seems to fit within the delineations with which we organise time — that it feels infinite or forever. And love, therefore, is always experienced as something transgressive or boundary-breaking — that is, as something inherently Punk. Or to put it a bit more eloquently: everyone you’ve ever fallen in love with is someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with.
And the collection’s length is also worth discussing because Donnelly’s work is so intense. The Problem of the Many is not 198 pages of light verse, or prose that happens to be broken into lines and as such reads breezily.
But that Berlin, the city with a wall down the middle, was only one of several. It’s the one Iain MacGregor describes in this lively book of anecdotes and interviews. And yet this great town is a shape-shifter. Every generation or so, it shakes itself – or is shaken - and becomes unrecognisable. From a pretty little provincial dump, it turned in a few years of frenzied building into the towering capital of a Wilhelmine empire. Then radical Weimar; then Hitler. Then the RAF gutted and levelled its centre. Then the victor powers divided it into four sectors. In August 1961 Walter Ulbricht split it with the wall, which stood for 28 years – the Berlin I used to live in (while Berlin correspondent for this newspaper). And then, just 30 years ago, the wall came down and the place became unrecognisable yet again.