For several years now I’ve been trying to publish my short stories in literary magazines. The editors’ replies are usually polite, some even complimentary, but almost all have been negative. Only two of the stories have been published. The rejections have given me the chance to ask myself for whom the stories are written. And the answer is: for family and friends.
My son David, who is a designer, has been urging me for years to publish the stories online, and this website is the result. I’ll be posting clusters of two or three stories every month, or perhaps every couple of weeks. Each posting will include some of my oldest efforts along with some of the most recent. I’ll add a word or two about each story by way of introduction—but only a word or two. The handwritten originals of the stories, as of all my academic work, are in the Special Collections Department of the John T. Richardson Library at DePaul University, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Because I live in Germany and do not have ready access to the notebooks that contain the stories, I cannot tell you much about how they came to be. Allow me, however, this general remark.
Even in my philosophical work (begun in the early 1970s and continuing today) fiction has played a large role—large enough to justify the scornful remark of a prominent English philosopher that I was “clearly no philosopher.” I’ve never been able to separate philosophy from texts and narratives, and I don’t believe such separation is useful or even possible. I recall how strongly drawn I was to Plato’s Socrates when he finally stopped arguing and started retelling the old myths, and how delighted I was by Schelling’s cultivation of what he called “the oldest narratives.” It is clear to me, of course, that my own fascination with fiction is something that more and more readers of philosophy share.
That said, I trust that none of the stories that will appear on this site are “stories of ideas,” in the sense that one speaks of “novels of ideas.” No doubt the three novels that I have published with the State University of New York (SUNY) Press are novels of ideas: how could they not be when their subjects are thinkers? Yet I believe it is fair to say that Nietzsche’s madness, Hegel’s illegitimate son, and Hölderlin’s love of Diotima all involve “ideas” that are very strange.* Most of the stories that will appear on this site—all of them, I hope—are meant as occasions for enjoyment, entertainment, pleasure. Often they are occasions for laughter, and even if some of them make me weep, so that I’ll never be able to read them in public, they are occasions for what Aristotle called “tragic pleasure.” I’d be delighted if you found enough pleasure in the stories to share them with your friends.
The stories are available without cost to you, and the cost for me, thanks to my son David and Silvrback Platform, is quite modest. The usual caveats apply: the stories are all copyrighted, first in their original handwritten form and then once again in their form here on the website. And even though there may be elements of truth in each one, the stories are fictions from top to bottom, and any resemblance of character or incident to persons or events in the real world is pure coincidence.
Thank you for your interest in these stories. At some point there may be a link to a site that contains my own reading (in the sense of performance) of some of these stories—something that you can download for that long road trip to Cucamonga that you’ve been dreading. We’ll keep you posted, so to speak. For the moment, I am grateful for your reading.
So many friends have helped me with these stories over the years that I fear naming names. Stacey Engels, herself a fine writer, ’way out of my league, has been so supportive! Ursula Willaredt, a dear friend since the 1970s, put me on her list of “favorite writers” long before I thought I might be able to become one. Ulrich Halfmann read virtually all these stories, lending them an expert, critical eye and unstinting support. My four children, David Matthew, Elena Sophia, Elias Dylan, and Salomé Maria, apart from being sources of inspiration, have generously undertaken to help me publish them. And how could I even begin to name the teachers, from grade school through graduate school, who showed me what good writing might look like. Finally, I’d like to dedicate these stories to my eldest sibling and sibyl, Carol Ann Krell, who since her teenage years has been known as “Buzz.” For Buzz, then.
*See Nietzsche: A Novel (1996), Son of Spirit: A Novel (1997), and The Recalcitrant Art: Diotima’s Letters to Hölderlin and Related Missives (2000).