Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Feet Say Run by Daniel A Blum **Review**

Publisher: Gabriel’s Horn Press
Pages: 349
Genre: Literary Fiction

At the age of eighty-five, Hans Jaeger finds himself a castaway among a group of
survivors on a deserted island.  What is my particular crime? he asks.   Why have I been chosen  for this fate? And so he begins his extraordinary chronicle. 

It would be an understatement to say he has lived a full life.  He has grown up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl.  He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess.  After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, finds solace among prostitutes while his wife lay in a coma, and marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her. 

By turns sardonic and tragic and surreal, Hans’s story is the story of all of the
insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself.  

Where do I begin? This book was layered in a way I should have expected from the synopsis yet it still took me by surprise. This guy has lived a lot of  life in his time. Some of it not so pretty or easy to digest. However, it was a riveting and provoking read. One thing that the reader will pick up on, is that that author created a two trains of thought are going on within this man. The guy seemed scattered and all over the place so the trains of thought made sense  there. Although I found the story a bit confusing at times, the author did keep my interest. If you like war time/Germany themed reads, you will like this read.


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Book Excerpt:

It was early November.  November 5, to be
exact.  1938.   I was with Hilda when we heard the news over
the radio.  A German diplomat had been
shot.  By a Jew.  We’d never heard of this diplomat.  Who had? 
But suddenly it was all over the news. 
This abominable act!  Committed
not just by a Jew.  But, rather, by the
Jews.  This high crime!  For a few days the diplomat clung to
life.    But the fury of the official
broadcasts was astonishing.  The demands
for revenge.  And then, on the day I had
marked for my next visit with Sylvia, this obscure diplomat, now elevated to
the level of a great personage, died of his wounds—martyred himself for the
cause of all of us violated Germans.

Hilda and I just looked at one another.
“I think you need to get her out now,” Hilda said. 
And then, “If you’re going to do it.”
I nodded.
wireless was broadcasting stories of rioting breaking out all over
Anti-Jewish rage.  Synagogues
torched.  Storefronts smashed.  From inside Hilda’s apartment though, we
heard nothing.  It was like any other
night.  Would it really spread to our
quiet little town?
left for Sylvia’s before
midnight.  The
crooked alleys in Hilda’s neighborhood were all calm.  Maybe none of it was true.  There were people out here and there, maybe
more than usual —groups of threes and fours, mostly drawn out by the news,
wondering what they would see.  But it
was a chilly night, and that seemed to keep people moving.
I walked toward the river I could hear more voices.  And then there was something.  A lamp store. 
Brodsky’s Lamps and Lampshades. 
Smashed to ruins.  Shards of glass
everywhere.  Just as the radio had
described it.  Why had it happened here
though?  What was this strange, magical
connection between the radio and this pile of debris?   Is that what it means to be a social species,
that we will simply do what we believe others are doing?  We hear words on the radio, people are
destroying Jewish businesses, and like pre-programmed automatons, we interpret
this message as an instruction?
moved on, walked along old streets, under medieval arches, and out to the less
ancient, less huddled part of town. 
Across all of it was a sort of crystalline quiet.  A milkman’s wagon passed —the horse clopping
and snorting.  Along the next block I
scared up a yard of chickens, startled myself with the sudden clucking and
scattering.  Peaceful Edelburg.  My storybook town.
 I was most of the way to Sylvia’s when I
approached something again.  A
commotion.  I drew closer.   A crowd of figures, milling around a square,
Vanderplatz.  Watching something.  Watching what?  There were voices.  Shouts. 
I approached.   Peeked through a
pair of shoulders.   A man was being
pushed by several men.  They were
shouting at him.  Trying to get him to
push back.  He was older, had a
frightened face, kept trying to back away, but there was always someone behind
him, giving him another shove.  His hair
was disheveled.  Beside them, on the
ground, was a hat that had evidently been knocked off his head.  What did they want from him? 
woman, who seemed to be his wife, was restrained by two other men.  One had her arms.  The other had a hand in her hair.  She was crying, protesting.  She wore a heavy coat that bunched in the
neck as they pried her arms back.  When
she spoke, the hand in her hair drove her down lower, until at last she was on
her knees, and drool was dripping from her mouth.  Now the man protested the woman’s treatment,
begged on her behalf, and this resulted in a fist hitting his stomach.  He bent over, breathless, as other blows
started to land on him.
an unreal quality it had though.  This
one little act.  This one droplet of
cruelty amid the sea that seemed to be sweeping the country.  You could even sense a kind of
self-consciousness among the perpetrators. 
Acting out this bit of violence, getting themselves comfortable with it,
acclimated to it, this act that they had heard was happening everywhere, trying
this new thing out, yet having trouble identifying this old couple, these
actual people, with the criminal Juden of the broadcasts.
then, after the first blow, how much easier it seemed, the next punches coming
so much more naturally, the hatred starting to feed on itself, the inner
pleasure at inflicting pain.  Yes!  This was going to be a beautiful thing, this
new violence!  It was just a question of
adjusting to it.  That the victims were
old and helpless, that there was nothing that they had actually done to deserve
it that anyone could name—wasn’t that really part of the joy?  Wasn’t that liberating in some way?  Because if you could beat these people, punch
their elderly faces and kick their sides, with all these others watching, doing
nothing to stop it, didn’t that give you a kind of power, not merely over your
victims, but over everybody, everything? 
Could you not take it even farther, see how far it could go?
were maybe only six or seven young men actually involved in tormenting this
couple, and maybe sixty or seventy watching silently.  Many no doubt shocked, horrified, wishing it
would stop.  But silent as an audience
watching a performance in a theatre. 
Silent as a group of schoolchildren watching a bully pick on someone
smaller and weaker.  Each thinking maybe
now someone should stop this.  It has
gone on long enough.  Someone should
intercede.  But who?  How? 
Others just incorporating it. 
Accepting it.  Who knew.
then there was that awkward moment.  That
end without an end—the victims just lying there bloodied.  The beating done.  Only there was no curtain to lower upon the
scene.  And that lack of a proper ending seemed
to reveal, even to the perpetrators, the pointlessness of what they had
done.  Did they just walk away?  Bow to their audience?  What? 
At last it occurred to one of them to spit on the couple.  And then the others recognized the virtue of
this, and added their spit.  And their
beads of spit landed like hateful, little exclamations points on their
victims.  And thus having found a
suitable denouement, they turned away, headed off, whooping, breaking into some
Nazi song—as though it were the final number in a musical.
had come to Edelburg. 

a while the crowd stayed where it was, looked on at those two heaps of
suffering, as though still expecting something more to happen.  Wondering if it is over.  Wondering if they should offer assistance,
call the police, deposit their own spit. 
In the end though, they did none of these.  Instead they just watched for a while more
and wandered off, left to sort out their own thoughts.
was one of the last to leave.  I watched
them stagger up.  Alive.  Moaning. 
I briefly caught the man’s eye. 
At least someone get him his hat, I thought.  But I didn’t. 
I left.  Just as the others had.
a few more blocks to Sylvia’s, and now I felt even more urgently the need to
reach her.  I was aware of forms passing
this way and that.  More than would
normally have been out at that hour.  I
heard muffled voices.  But it was
difficult to see very much.  The night
was moonless.  Who were they?  It was hard to make out.
waited across the street for a while, until it seemed there was nobody
around.  Then I slipped around the back
of Sylvia’s house and tossed a pebble at the window.   A moment later I was inside.  I was in her arms.  That same shocking nakedness through her
nightgown.  Pressed against her.  We tiptoed up to her room, just as we had on
my last visit.  I undressed.  Slipped into her bed.   At first I was still seeing that scene at
Vanderplatz that I had witnessed.  That
vignette.  And then in another instant it
was gone.  As though a great wave came
over consciousness itself, obliterating everything.  Because how could this beautiful sensation
and that horrid memory coexist?  Or maybe
I just willed it away.  I just wanted the
pureness of the moment.  No past and no
future.   No words.  Just the sensation, the great ocean-wave of
desire, flooding everything.  So that
when the bed creaked it was as though reality itself had given us a little
nudge.  No, you cannot forget me.  I am right outside.  I am waiting for you.

About the Author

Daniel A. Blum grew up in New York, attended Brandeis

University and currently lives outside of Boston with his family. His first novel Lisa33 was published by
Viking in 2003. He has been featured in Poets and Writers magazine, Publisher’s
Weekly and most recently, interviewed in Psychology Today.

Daniel writes a humor blog, The
Rotting Post, that has developed a loyal following.

His latest release is the literary
novel, The
Feet Say Run


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