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The Appointment

Review

The Appointment

A novel that is one long monologue at an unspecified time and date is a bold move. To then take that narrative and turn it into an unsettling and surprisingly dark conversation about cultural and gender identity, among other things, is a particularly brave decision. Furthermore, it must be emphasized that THE APPOINTMENT is a debut novel. Katharina Volckmer walks a precipice in razor-sharp shoes, digging in on the difficult stuff and infusing the most dangerous and, frankly, disgusting thoughts (sex with Hitler, anyone?) with a humor that keeps you reading even as you are not sure you want to do so.

A young woman who is uncomfortable in her body is expressing many thoughts to a Dr. Seligman. At first we don’t know what the doctor does --- at one point, she notes that he is in a certain position to her torso, which gives you an indication of what may be going on. However, as she begins to tell the story of her fascination with the post-war German culture in which she grew up, doling out tales about sex with a married lover known only as K, as well as a number of Japanese sex toys, this unnamed woman begins to let us in on her issues with her identity. And so it goes, at breakneck speed, revelation after revelation, finally leading us to what is actually going on and what she really wants.

"THE APPOINTMENT is a treatise on how the culture in which we grow up affects every aspect of our life as an adult, as much as our parents or teachers or loved ones do. This is a very short book, but is long on ideas to ponder well beyond the last word."

Our narrator has no age, but we can assume that she is younger than 30. We know that K is married and thus older than her at the time of their affair. But we have no other details about her in physical time. Her stories are in the past tense, so all we know is that the sum total of these musings and experiences has brought her to this doctor for a particular appointment.

The frank discussion of sex (particularly about penises and their uses), especially as it relates to the German world before, during and after Hitler’s regime, is off-putting at times. The fantasies our heroine has in reference to the despot are unnerving, and there is little actual sensuality related when it comes to the fantasies or her real-life encounters. As with the discussions about German culture and how they fit into how she feels about her personal identity, the sex is merely another platform for intellectual discussions on being stoic in the face of toxic relationships and cultural leanings.

The fact that Volckmer cannot find a German publisher to publish this novel speaks volumes. The intersectionality of cultural identity, gender and self-identity is not for the squeamish. It is interesting, given that Germany is so very good at contextualizing its history in order to move forward and not fall prey to such despicable politics and social order, that the narrator can only think about the example of Nazi propaganda, the death camps and the unspeakable horrors of that time in a sexual fantasy. This makes it feel like a very millennial story to me, as personal and sexual freedom and identity is the revolution for the twentysomething generation. But regardless of the age of the narrator, her disturbing rants make for some very compelling reading.

Not for the lighthearted reader, THE APPOINTMENT is a treatise on how the culture in which we grow up affects every aspect of our life as an adult, as much as our parents or teachers or loved ones do. This is a very short book, but is long on ideas to ponder well beyond the last word.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 11, 2020

The Appointment
by Katharina Volckmer

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982150173
  • ISBN-13: 9781982150174