Something Good #89: From Saxony
I’m the kind of guy who, when invited to a film festival in a spa town in Central Europe, tends to say yes. Look, I’ll even go if you invite me to a festival in a big city in Western Europe, but it’s those easterly, relatively obscure locations that I really love to explore. Interesting things happen in these small-town festivals. So when Sarah and I were offered a chance to bring You Can Live Forever to Chemnitz, Germany—formerly known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, best known for a 40-tonne bronze bust of Marx in its city center—I did not hesitate to say yes.
What I did not count on when accepting the invitation last month was an acute pinched nerve in my neck that has had me in agony for weeks now; not super propitious for air travel. Nor could I have anticipated a comically bad flight experience that involved a plane that had to turn around mid-air due to mechanical problems, a 10-hour wait in Frankfurt airport, and finally, a four-hour trip by train to Leipzig. But we made it.
The next morning, a 14-year-old waiter spilled a bottle of seltzer on me, at which point my nose spontaneously started bleeding all over my nice new shirt.
I wanted to purchase some sort of stain remover but nothing else seemed to be open on Sunday, so I asked the hotel front desk clerk if there was anywhere I could buy some. “No,” he said, with a roll of his heavy-lidded eyes. “We are in Saxony. It’s horrible.”
It’s fine! I’m in pretty much constant pain, but the people are nice here. As we are at a youth film festival, there is a weird number of international child stars, or would-be stars, hanging around in the lobby. Also, everybody seems to sit around in cafés eating lowkey the biggest desserts you’ve ever seen at 2pm in the afternoon on Tuesday and they don’t even share them with each other.
I violated my cardinal rule of film festivals by booking way too long a stay here, so here are some ways I’ve been passing the time: I’m reading Ann Leckie’s Provenance, a standalone novel in her Imperial Radch science fiction universe, and I remain convinced that she is the most interesting sci-fi writer currently working. Nobody can describe imaginary societies with such fine-grained detail like she can; their customs are always more fascinating than the books’ technology. After Translation State and her fantasy novel Raven Tower (arecommendation), I will follow her anywhere.
On the plane, I read Zeke Faux’s Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall. Faux was fortunate enough to be in contact with Sam Bankman-Fried during FTX’s incredible collapse, but the story he tells goes beyond just one boy wonder gone wrong, to some very disquieting places. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book was how Faux dispenses with the “well maybe this will be good for something one day” equivocations too many writers on this beat usually feel obliged to include to cover their asses. He’s not afraid to call out the entire “industry” for the offensive, damaging, useless farce it has always been and will always be. (Please do not attempt to change my mind.)
In the local art museum, the Kunstsammlungen am Theaterplatz, I enjoyed a Johann Christian Klengel painting of a shipwreck where some poor soul can be seen Porky-Pigging it on a rocky outcropping.
The beer here is, no surprise, very good. Sarah and I discovered a drink called a “Diesel,” which is approximately half Pilsner beer, half cola. She likes it very much. I am not as convinced.
Finally, here’s a store I would like to shop at one day:
The mystery of commenter 1912Universal remains unsolved. I have followed some leads and spoken to at least one Louis Wasserman (and learned of another likely, not now deceased suspect) but I fear I have hit a brick wall. If you have any ideas or clues please get in touch. And thanks to everyone who linked to last week’s issue, and all of the new subscribers now joining us.
This week’s #nojacketsrequired comes via friend of the newsletter Eve Thomas. As usual, send me your dejacketed discoveries.
This issue of Something Good was written in a small hotel room in Saxony. If you liked what you read here, please subscribe or tell a friend.