Born in Henderson, Kentucky, Adam Joseph Goebel III (“Joey”) is primarily known for his novels The Anomalies, Torture the Artist, Commonwealth, and I Against Osborne. Sometimes labeled satire or literary fiction, Goebel calls his novels “literary comedies.”
Though his peculiar books have earned him cult status in the United States, he is an established name in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, where he goes on reading tours every several years. Published by Diogenes Verlag, Europe’s largest literary publisher, his success in the German domain has led to his books being translated into sixteen languages. (Besides the German-speaking countries, Goebel has a wide readership in France and Romania.)
Goebel’s career in entertainment unofficially began at fifteen, fronting a satirical pop-punk band called the Mullets. For the Mullets he wrote over a hundred songs, which were released on four albums. The band played one hundred shows from 1996 to 2001, mostly in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. The Mullets were known for their comedic antics and fast, high-energy sets and had an extraordinarily loyal following in the Evansville, Indiana, punk rock scene.
As the Mullets’ run was coming to a close, Goebel started writing screenplays while majoring in English at Brescia University, a small liberal arts college in Owensboro, KY. It was in a creative writing class at Brescia that he wrote his fourth screenplay, The Anomalies, which he adapted into the novel that began his publishing career.
San Francisco publisher MacAdam/Cage—who would soon have The Time Traveler’s Wife as their claim to fame—published The Anomalies in the spring of 2003. At the time he was notified that he would be published, Goebel was working at a horse racetrack.
The Anomalies was a 2003 Booksense 76 Selected Title, a 2004 finalist for a Writers Notes Book Award, and a 2004 nominee for the Kentucky Literature Award. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues author Tom Robbins said of The Anomalies: “Young Joey Goebel is a born writer, one of those fated originals upon whose brainpan the mad language elves have drummed with their rubidium wands. Brutally insightful, ferociously funny—yet somehow strangely touching—The Anomalies is the freshest novel so far of the twenty-first century.”
After The Anomalies was published, Goebel started a short-lived band called Novembrists, who recorded one self-released CD.
Goebel’s second novel, Torture the Artist was published by MacAdam/Cage in the fall of 2004 and received especially favorable reviews from The Boston Globe, The Courier-Journal, and Library Journal. At the 2004 Frankfurt Book Fair (the largest of its kind), the unusual premises of his first two novels caught the attention of Anna von Planta of Diogenes Verlag. (Von Planta is the editor of the German translations of John Irving, Patricia Highsmith, Friedrich Dürrenmatt,and Patrick Süskind.)
Renamed Vincent for its German translation, Torture the Artist went on to sell over 80,000 German copies, which sparked interest from other foreign publishers. Goebel was featured in Der Spiegel and Die Zeit (somewhat akin to America’s Time and Newsweek).
In 2006, The Anomalies was renamed Freaks for the German edition. Goebel did a book tour that fall, going to Holland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, doing readings in punk rock clubs. Also in 2006: Vincent won the Jury of Young Readers Prize (Austria); Torture was long listed for the first Dylan Thomas Literary Prize (Wales); and both Vincent and Freaks were made into short-run stage plays.
In 2005-2008, while foreign translations of his first two novels were being published, Goebel earned an MFA at Louisville’s Spalding University and worked on Commonwealth, which was published by MacAdam/Cage in the summer of 2008.
In 2009, Goebel appeared at the Paris Book Fair to promote the French versions of his novels. In June he traveled to Romania to receive the Festival Prize, awarded by the Writer’s Union of Romania. The Union stated that they believed “that Goebel is among the very few young writers of today who will surely become the classics of tomorrow’s world literature.”
The German version of Commonwealth was retitled Heartland. The highlight of Goebel’s career came when Heartland was announced as Diogenes’ lead title in their spring catalog.
Throughout 2007-2012, in addition to his novel-writing, Goebel taught English composition at a local community college; became a freelance writer—writing for Mercedes-Benz and having his essays and features published in Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, Kulturaustausch, Du, esquire.com, and Oxford American; wrote more screenplays; and worked on a songwriting/recording project under the name Dr. Lawyer.
Goebel continues to live in Kentucky with his wife and son. His non-creative interests are watching WWE professional wrestling; learning to speak German; and watching movies and a few TV shows.
photo by Isolde Ohlbaum
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