In a well-appointed examination in London, a young woman unburdens herself to a certain Dr. Seligman. Though she can barely see above his head, she holds forth about her life and desires, her struggles with her sexuality and identity.
... represents a struggle to break free from one’s haunted national roots ... The nature of the titular appointment is revealed only gradually, turning the reader into a sharp-eyed detective looking for clues ... Things are clarified soon enough, but the novel’s chief pleasures lie not in its initial mysteries, or in its eventual, often unsurprising revelations, but in its bitter, Bernhardian comic tone ... Writing in such a diegetically rigorous mode presents a particular challenge when it comes to parceling out basic exposition. A conventional first-person narrator might offer an unprompted description of the exam room, its furnishings, and of Dr. Seligman himself. Here, such details—Seligman’s male-pattern baldness, the picture frames on his desk, the room’s red velvet walls—must be salient enough for the narrator to comment upon them aloud ... Volckmer’s elegant construction never draws attention to such writerly maneuvers; physical descriptions, hints about Dr. Seligman’s practice, and information about other characters mentioned throughout accumulate naturally and never feel shoehorned in. Likewise, Volckmer’s unfussy sentences rarely impress but never distract or interrupt the book’s flow. At a time when so few novels are published of which even that much can be said, Volckmer’s 'mere' competence—her avoidance of clunky similes and unwieldy syntax—is refreshing ... So, too, is her gleeful provocation, which, like that of Ottessa Moshfegh, is never in service to glib nihilism or amorality. In fact, this is a deeply moral book, one that, beneath the graphic sex talk and raucous vitriol, is concerned with contemporary Europe’s historical trauma, the oppressiveness of traditional gender roles, and one’s personal responsibility to the past. It remains to be seen what kind of career Volckmer will have, but consider The Appointment a warning shot fired across the bow of the modern novel.
From the very beginning, Katharina Volckmer’s début novel doesn’t pull its punches ... leaves little aside in its quest to throw taboo subjects under the microscope ... Her narration ranges from wilful provocation to pensive eloquence, often in the space of a single sentence. This conflictual style fully justifies those more provocative lines. Thanks to this brave authorial decision, the hypocrisy of modern British prudishness is displayed to the reader with unrelenting candour ... With bravery comes risk, though, and there is a danger that the reader may tire of this campaign of revelation even in a novel spanning no more than a hundred pages. The strength of The Appointment, however, is that it offers just enough of a plot to maintain its reader’s interest ... Gender is but one of many, many subjects broached in this book. The sheer scope of these is impressive — Nazism, technology, sexuality, memory, Catholicism among others — but such scope in such a short novel leaves little time for the significant moments of thoughtfulness to sink in. The narration aptly, breathlessly portrays a hyperactive imagination, but it seems at times as if the author has forgotten to bring the reader with her. By the time that we have processed one observation, our narrator is already giving us another on the attractive perversions of debauchery. There is nothing superficial about the sometimes shocking images presented to the reader throughout The Appointment, but the rapidity of their accumulation sometimes gives the impression of exactly that ... Key to appreciating everything The Appointment has to offer, then, is a refusal of its implicit recommendation to finish the book in one sitting. The reader must treat this monologue as the silent Dr Seligman does: not to respond to the provocations, but to listen thoughtfully for the moments in which the narrator is at her most philosophical before sitting back and considering. Paradoxically, perhaps, the novel is at its most effective when the reader is least tempted to press wilfully on. Given the patience it deserves, The Appointment proves a multi-layered and intelligent first novel.
... coruscating ... a setup that allows Volckmer to display her mastery of dark comedy ... The narration successfully walks a tightrope of incendiary subject matter via German-Jewish humor and literary touchstones; Volckmer’s inversion of Portnoy’s Complaint is a revelation.