While We Were Dreaming sits well on the shelf ‘midst Trainspotting, Stand By Me (er, The Body) and Requiem for a Dream, those disturbing yet nostalgic tales of the rise and fall of childhood chums slumming down life’s yellower brick roads, but what makes this kaleidoscopic coming-of-age collection really stand (by me) out is the punch-in-the-gut pivotal point of turning 13 in East Berlin, 1989. The pre/post Wall stories run out of chronological order, so the cast of characters are at times 8-year-old Pioneer Scout cutups, any-agers getting out of prison for the Nth time, preteens caught on the wrong team’s side of a football riot or stealing their first (of many) case of beer, yet constantly bailing each other out of any messed up situation their messed up situations situate them in. The emotion varietals are all over the map, multifaceted and always well-played.
While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, (List Price: 20, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 9781804270288, September 2023)
Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia