cover image The Appointment

The Appointment

Katharina Volckmer. Avid Reader, $22 (144p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5017-4

Volckmer’s coruscating debut takes the form of a Bernhardian monologue made during a medical exam. While the title is a nod to the novel’s setting, its alternate title (The Story of a Jewish Cock) engenders the salacious tone. Sarah, the German-born, London-based 30-something narrator, opens the book by relating her sexual fantasies of Hitler to Dr. Seligman, her Jewish gynecologist. As Seligman examines Sarah, she provides a chaise lounges-like Freudian confessional, a setup that allows Volckmer to display her mastery of dark comedy. Sarah ponders epithets for the Fuhrer’s penis and explains how loving “a Jew... a proper one, with curls and a skullcap” is the only way for a German to overcome Holocaust guilt. The narrative is deepened when Sarah explores how the shame of being German has impacted her psyche: she describes a romance begun in a public toilet and her disdain for her familial and national roots, even airing out her frustration of being stereotyped as a German well versed in “Max fucking Sebald.” The book ends in a passage of contemplative beauty that grounds Sarah as a human trying to solve her own complications. The narration successfully walks a tightrope of incendiary subject matter via German-Jewish humor and literary touchstones; Volckmer’s inversion of Portnoy’s Complaint is a revelation. (Sept.)