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What Is a Künstlerroman?

The Way of All Flesh cover

With Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe introduced me to the Künstlerroman (German for “artist novel”), and I have been a huge fan of the genre ever since. Some of my favorite novels (eg, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, The Way of All Flesh, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are of the Künstlerroman variety, and I even wrote one of my own.

The Künstlerroman is actually a subgenre of the Bildungsroman. A Bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story, that is, the story’s focus is on the psychological and moral growth of the main character from childhood to adulthood, with maturation as the goal. According to Wikipedia, “The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society.”

When the Bildungsroman’s main character is an artist, the work is a Künstlerroman (Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister is considered to be the first of its type). In other words, every Künstlerroman is a Bildungsroman, but not every Bildungsroman is a Künstlerroman.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Bildungsroman and a Künstlerroman, as illustrated by the list that currently appears on Wikipedia’s Künstlerroman page, but that confusion disappears when you consider the fact that the “artist novel” is a sub-genre of the “coming-of-age novel” and not a separate genre altogether.

Poem: Reflecting Back

Reflecting Back

When I was a boy I was emblazed
In imagery galore.
I’d lay down a mirror and for hours gaze
At my little square hole in the floor.

I peered into the room I’d made,
Examined its every side.
Always to left or right I stayed
So wouldn’t see me inside.

How I played that wondering game
With its magicurious feeling,
Trying in vain to be in the same
Room with the floor for a ceiling.

Such is dismay in a dreaming child’s head
He sees it but never can show it.
Like a million sayings that can’t be said,
Such is the pain of the poet.

From Pixels of Young Mueller

Pixels of Young Mueller: Kindle Audio Sample

pixels-on-kindle

Here is an unenhanced audio sample from my novel, Pixels of Young Mueller, as read by the Kindle’s default male voice at normal speed (you can read along). As you can hear, the feature needs improving, but it would suffice if I preferred listening to books over reading them.

Fictional Characters Bearing Their Creators’ Names

Sarah Crown posted an interesting bit in The Guardian’s books blog, “Is auto-fiction strictly a boys’ game?” The subject was the phenomenon of authors who insert a character bearing their name into their work. It turns out that a number of books—both new and not so new—have used this device, a fact that interested me greatly, as I used it in my novel, Pixels of Young Mueller. I have compiled this list of books from the article:

  • Jonathan Coe (The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim)
  • Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room)
  • Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi)
  • Will Self (Will Self Walking to Hollywood)
  • Michel Houellebecq (La Carte et le Territoire)
  • Alberto Manguel (All Men Are Liars)
  • Philip Roth (Operation Shylock)
  • Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated)
  • E. L. Doctorow (World’s Fair)
  • Frederick Exley (A Fan’s Notes)
  • Vladimir Nabokov (Pnin)
  • Amelie Nothomb (Une forme de vie)
  • Gertrude Stein (Autobiography of Alice B Toklas)

Readers familiar with my novel know that its main character, Klaus Mueller, creates a fictional character named Jerry Schwartz. I knew that I could not have been the first to do this, but I was not aware of any specific instances in which it had been done. Fortunately, Sarah Crown has come to the rescue, and while I don’t agree with her use of “auto-fiction” to describe the literary device itself, I applaud her efforts.

20 Famous Writers Who Never Finished College

Jack Kerouac

Here’s a list of 20 famous writers who either did not attend or never finished college:

  • Hans Christian Andersen
  • Maya Angelou
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Charles Dickens
  • William Faulkner
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Jack Kerouac (pictured)
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Doris Lessing
  • Jack London
  • Herman Melville
  • George Orwell
  • Carl Sandburg
  • William Shakespeare
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Mark Twain
  • H. G. Wells
  • Virginia Woolf

That’s an impressive bunch by anyone’s standards, and I didn’t even include those who only wrote poetry (Robert Frost would have been included here, for instance).

New 5-Star Review for Pixels of Young Mueller

Pixels of Young Mueller cover

Amazon customer Tony Parsons gave Pixels of Young Mueller 5 out of 5 stars, calling it “very well written” with “a lot of enlightening scenarios and a host of great characters,” a book that “could make a great movie or TV series.” Here’s the review:

Klaus Mueller dreams about leaving Southland someday to be a rock star. He chooses the so called glamorous lifestyle over college. He has lots/lots of setbacks: poor paying or unfit jobs, and his music is constantly being rejected.

Fast forward he moves to Chicago, IL he finds a career and becomes a father. Klaus is still not thoroughly happy with his current lifestyle.

It’s amazing since I have started reading regular people’s books instead of college textbooks how many others struggle besides musicians, such as writers and artists. 9 to 5 is that really what we want out of our life?

Cool book cover, great font and writing style. A very well written true to life book. It was very easy to read/follow and never a dull moment from start/finish. No grammar errors, repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. A lot of enlightening scenarios and a host of great characters. This could make a great movie or TV series. A book you must read to the end. No doubt in my mind a very easy rating of 5 stars for this book.

Pixels of Young Mueller is available at Amazon. Check it out!