28 April 2013


Anybody here?

They heyday seems to be 2006.

Fiction writers don't gossip and blog--that seems to be the case for the demise of this once great idea.

But maybe things have changed.

02 February 2010

Open Letter to J.D. Salinger on the Event of his Literary Decomposition

From my blog.

Some years ago, and I suppose it was around the turn of the century--I received an email invite to contribute a one-page letter to a Letters to J.D. Salinger project, which, now published, will no doubt no receive a spike in sales due to J.D's passing.

Being a young, hungry, overeager, graduate student type with a need for publication, I dutifully re-read the red-covered tome, and, well, my reaction differed from my teenage reading of years before.

The first time, 10th or 11th grade English lit class---just after I'd realized English was more than grammar and handwriting--I was far from blown away. I enjoyed the book in the way one enjoys high school English books: Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, etc. I suspected then--like Nostradamus predicting his own commodification as a new age prophet--that the whole thing was merely a bit of calculated ennui from the business class.

No doubt my teachers really believed in the transformative power of the novel--nay, even the transgressive power--but I suspected that if I kept Holden's lessons too close to my vest, I'd be playing the rinsed-out high-school teacher myself in a few years: prattling on about the power of Walden and Emerson and Hawthorne and America's greatest white-boy hits to legions of America's largely ambivalent high schoolers. (Yes, I am now a college professor...)

[Note: most transgressive moment of high school. 9th grade health class. Ms. Kerkoff (I kid you not on the name) asks us to complete this thought--a way to jag us about our inner feelings: "Adolescence is like _____." The class makes shift to answer--stalls--stares at the clock, until a school mate (later to head into Naval intelligence of some sort, but at this point, an unrepentant rabblerouser), takes the floor: "Mrs. Kerkoff...Adolescence is a lot like a (long pause) Twinkie, because inside, for us all, there waits a creamy surprise..."]

Anyway, I figured the teachers meant well enough, but there was something about the supposedly subversive message of Catcher, handed to me on a silver platter, that read, well, more "phony" than the diegetic antics of Caulfield.

The re-reading, for the anthology project, made the book just seem, well, silly. Sure, it's well crafted, and yes, accessible in the cum-hither-late-modernism sort of way, but by the standards of the early oughts it seemed downright tame.

For me, longevity in a novel comes not from its increased relevance to the current social clime or its reasoned assimilation into the mainstream of American thought, but its continued belligerence--its pervasive refusal to make sense of the word or let itself be used a mirror.

Naked Lunch still fascinates me because it never lets you get handle on it--the book refuses to give up its secrets; it's not even a "novel," really, at least according to anything Salinger would have approached. (It's epistolary in its genesis: cobbled together from letters, also, as Oliver Harris would tell you).

I'm 3/4 of the way through Marcel Proust, for the second time, and the time-distortion of these ridiculous parties...where it takes longer to read than experience, where the Hawthorne trees speak to this boy-man who explores human depravity and manipulation for the sake of an aesthetic ideal...well, that stuff still works for me.

And so, I sent in my "letter" to J.D. to the editors, and never heard back. Good thing, too, since the piece took on a second life (with my musical partner in crime Don Meyer) in Mad Hatters' Review some years later, and after that, as a main track on our audiocollage release, Memorials to Future Catastrophes.

Here's the link at MHR: enjoy, read/listen if you like.

And, J.D., wherever you are, don't rest in peace--try to raise the roof a little bit. On second thought, maybe don't take the words of no college prof nohow.

31 January 2010

Who is the Next Zachary Mason?

A year ago, the New York Times poked fun at Zachary Mason. He was one of those crazy authors that sent them wacky things in the mail, begging for reviews. Silly rabble -- reviews are for the well-connected!

A year and a half later, the NYT finally assigned The Lost Books of the Odyssey for review. Of course, first the book had to be published by a major NY house, Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. The Times's primary job isn't to discuss literature, after all -- it's to support the beleaguered NYC publishing establishment. FS&G also got its cue from somebody else -- they picked up The Lost Books after it was nominated for a Young Lions Prize by the NY Public Library in early 2009. (Thanks, Brigid Hughes! Thanks, Ethan Hawke!)

The first recognition The Lost Books of the Odyssey received was when it won The Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction in 2006-7, a blind-judged manuscript contest offered annually by Starcherone Books. We've got our seventh such contest accepting manuscripts now, until February 15. Zach was winner #4.

I'm not saying that books like The Lost Books of the Odyssey come around every year, or even every two or three years. But keep your eyes on our other winners. Without making it a competition, these are definitely books that at least deserve to be in the conversation with The Lost Books of the Odyssey:

> Woman with Dark Horses, stories by Aimee Parkison (selected by Cris Mazza)

> Hangings: Three Novellas, by Nina Shope (selected by Kenneth Bernard)

> The Blue of Her Body, by Sara Greenslit (selected by Brian Evenson)

> The Creepy Girl and other stories, by Janet Mitchell (selected by Lance Olsen)

and forthcoming in Fall 2010:
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, by Alissa Nutting (selected by Ben Marcus)

Readers interested in what's new in contemporary fiction can purchase any of these titles, or subscribe to our entire 2010 season or 4 titles at a discounted rate. The Jack Kerouac Just Sent Mom Out for Another Bottle of Tokay Annual Subscription -- which this year includes three novels, Raymond Federman's Shhh: The Story of a Childhood, Leslie Scalapino's Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows, and Thaddeus Rutkowski's Haywire, as well as Alissa Nutting's contest-winning short story collection, is only $49.95, ppd.

If you read books, this subscription is one of the best deals you can find -- especially when we see the Starcherone first edition/first printing of Zachary Mason's book now a coveted rarity, selling for over $100! When you wait for for someone else to tell you what's good, you pay for it.

Our subscription is also a very well-kept secret. As of today, and including our donors who get the subscription as a thank you for their contributions, we have a total of 22 subscribers! Meanwhile, The Lost Books of the Odyssey has crossed into amazon's Top 200 -- and it doesn't even get released until Tuesday!

You can read tomorrow today by subscribing to Starcherone Books. If you are interested in mainstream publishing, continue to read what the mainstream publishers are selling. But if you are interested in the future of literature, subscribe to Starcherone Books.

04 January 2010

From Mad Hatters' Review

December 30, 2009

Dear Friends of the Mad Hatters:

In case you haven’t heard the buzz, our journal has decided to hit the cyber-streets on an annual basis.

Please be forewarned that our open submissions guidelines for Issue 12 (next in queue after THE MAD BUNKERS MASH, due to emerge in early 2010) is now posted on our front page, in the usual place, namely on the sidebar: Submissions Guidelines (http://www.madhattersreview.com/submissions.html). We’ll be reviewing submissions sent to us from January 1st through 31st, aiming to publish Issue 12 in January or February, 2011.

We have some old and new and juggled about staff members, namely:

Shirley Harshenin, webmaestress extraordinaire (nutheadproductions)
Alla Michelle Watson, Managing Editor
Gene Tanta, Art
Cartoons: Phil Nelson, assisted by Marja Hagborg
Visored Burgeonette (no kidding), Music/Audio
Ann Bogle, Creative Non-Fiction & Reviews
Marc Lowe and Matthew W. Maxwell, Fiction
Karen Garthe and Jefferson Hansen, Poetry
Amy Marie Bucciferro, Wit & Whimsy
Drama and Whatnots will be reviewed by yrs truly publisher.

Issue 12 will feature exhibitions of Visual Music presentations (edited by Jean DeTheux) and Moving Words (edited by Camille Bacos and Jeremy Hight).

All of our contributors, past and almost past (the Mash issue will be up in early 2010) are welcome to let us know about recent publications. We’ll be happy to include reviews, as long as we find reviewers (hint); alternatively, if you have your own reviewer, we will consider publishing the review as an exclusive to our journal. Please send publication news to madhr.12@gmail.com, subject line: CONTRIBUTOR’S NEW PUBLICATION.

Please consider surrendering a bit of currency or gold to keep our unique journal going and save the publisher from Empty Pockets Syndrome. If you pay taxes to the US government, your donations will be totally tax deductible. Find the donations link on the sidebar of our main/menu page. Click madly with passion and devotion and you’ll earn warmest thoughts and appreciations.

We’ll send another newsletter when the huge, mind-blowing Mad Bunkers Mash issue emerges.

New Year’s Cheers!
Carol Novack
Mad Hatters’ Review

17 September 2009

Hey, want a job?

Assistant Professor of English. Lake Forest College seeks a specialist in literature from the Early Modern period (1530-1780) to fill a tenure-track position. Preferred secondary specialization(s) in one or more of the following areas: the early novel, print culture, colonial/post-colonial/commonwealth literature, and dramatic literature. Applicants must have Ph.D. at time of appointment, substantial teaching experience, and a strong record of scholarly publication and promise. Submit letter of application, curriculum vitae, critical writing sample, and three letters of recommendation to Davis Schneiderman, Search Committee Chair; Box K-11; Lake Forest College; 555 N. Sheridan Road; Lake Forest, IL 60045. Screening of applicants begins immediately and continues through a postmark deadline of November 15, 2009. A highly selective liberal arts college located in a suburb of Chicago, Lake Forest College enrolls approximately 1,400 students from over 45 states and 65 countries. At Lake Forest College, the quality of a faculty member’s teaching is the most important criterion for evaluation. The College also expects peer-reviewed publication or creative works and active participation in the College community. Lake Forest College embraces diversity and encourages applications from women and members of historically underrepresented groups.

09 January 2009

10K, plus a place to write

Lake Forest College
Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer's Residency Prize (Prose)

Lake Forest College, in conjunction with the &NOW organization, invites applications for an emerging prose writer under forty years old, with no major book publication, to spend two months (February-March or March-April 2010) in residence at our campus in Chicago’s northern suburbs on the shore of Lake Michigan.

There are no formal teaching duties attached to the residency. Time is to be spent completing a manuscript, participating in the Lake Forest Literary Festival, and offering two public presentations.

The completed manuscript will be published (upon approval) by the Lake Forest College Press &NOW Books imprint.

The stipend is $10,000, with a housing suite and campus meals.

Send curriculum vita, no more than 30 pages of manuscript in progress, and a one-page statement of plans for completion to:

Plonsker Residency
Department of English
Lake Forest College
Box A16
555 N. Sheridan Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045.

Submissions must be postmarked by April 1, 2009 for consideration by judges Robert Archambeau, Davis Schneiderman, and Joshua Corey.

07 November 2008

The Return of the Starcherone Fiction Prize for Innovative Fiction

After a year away, Starcherone Books announces the return of our annual manuscript contest, featuring fiction writer Ben Marcus as Final Judge.

The 2009-10 contest, offering $1000 and publication with Starcherone Books, is now accepting entries. Contest is open to story collections, novels, or indeterminate prose works up to 400 pages. Manuscripts will be blind-judged; the author's name should appear on the first of two title pages and nowhere else in the manuscript. There is an administrative fee of $30. Please do not send cash. The postmark deadline is February 15, 2009. The winner will be announced in August 2009. All finalists will be considered for publication with Starcherone Books. See our ad in the January 2009 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

We are very happy to have as judge for our prize for innovative fiction one of the most daringly innovative and powerful authors of our time, Ben Marcus. Marcus is the author of three books to date -- The Age of Wire and String, Notable American Women, and, with Matthew Ritchie, The Father Costume. He also edited The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. He is Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Columbia University.

Complete information is available at starcherone.com/prize.htm.

04 November 2008

30 under 30

Lily Hoang & Blake Butler are now in the early stages of putting together an anthology to feature innovative writers under the age of 30. The anthology has interest from a respected small press.

Please submit no more than 15 pages of prose/poetry/whatever goes to: thirtyunderthirty@gmail.com by January 15. Send as .doc or .rtf attachment. (For truly exceptional cases, we will consider longer submissions.) Previously unpublished work only please. Also, all submissions should be open to editorial review.

We're looking for the innovative, fresh, exciting writing, and as long as you're under 30 & doing new things with words, please submit.

28 October 2008

Campbell Tatham 1940-2008

Cam Tatham, a good friend to many of us, and one of the most perceptive critics of postmodern fiction, died this afternoon at his home north of Milwaukee. He fought brain cancer--effectively--since the summer of 2007 but took a sudden turn for the worse in the final months of this year.

Cam first published on John Barth before turning to the more significantly minor (in the very best Deleuzian sense) works of FC2 founders and mainstays like Ronald Sukenick and Raymond Federman. With Federman he conducted a lengthy correspondence that helped produce, in part, the novel, _Take It or Leave It_.

For me, he was a mentor through grad school, as well as a very close friend then and now.

We will miss you, Cam.

04 October 2008


Saturday, Oct. 18, morning, noon, and night, Buffalo, NY

Friends, colleagues, critics, and students past and present from near and far welcome writer, raconteur, and retired distinguished professor Raymond Federman back to Buffalo for a day-long celebration of his work and him in visual art, critical appreciations, rollicking literary readings, & champagne. All events are free and open to the public.

Sponsored by Starcherone Books, the Department of Romance Languages of the University at Buffalo, UB Anderson Gallery, the Poetry Collection at UB, Medaille College, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, and the following endowed chairs at the University at Buffalo: Melodia E. Jones Chair of Romance Languages, James H. McNulty Chair of English, David Gray Chair of Poetry & Letters, and Samuel P. Capen Chair in American Culture.

Morning: 10:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M., UB Anderson Gallery, One Martha Jackson Place.
Opening reception (with coffee and accompaniments) of an exhibition of Federman-inspired art works by Terri Katz-Kazimov and Harvey Breverman, & photographs by Bruce Jackson. [The image above is Jackson's.]

Noon(ish): 1:00-4:30 P.M., Poetry Collection, 4th Floor Capen Hall, UB North Campus.
Two sessions of presentations and discussion featuring contributors to the forthcoming SUNY Press collection of essays, Federman at 80: From Surfiction to Critifiction, edited by Jeffrey DiLeo.

1:00-2:30: A Life in the Text.
Dr. Larry McCaffery, Dr. Menachem Feuer, & Dr. Ted Pelton.

3:00-4:30: Laughter, History, and the Holocaust.
Dr. Susan Rubin Suleiman & Dr. Marcel Cornis-Pope.

& NIGHT: 8:00 P.M., Medaille College, Main Building, Foyer & Lecture Hall.
An Evening of Laughterature, Surfiction, & Playgiarism in Tribute to Raymond Federman

Readings by (in order of appearance):

Ted Pelton, Christina Milletti, Geoffrey Gatza, Julie Regan, Michael Basinski, & Steve McCaffery.


Davis Schneiderman, Charles Bernstein, Simone Federman, & Raymond Federman

The readings will be followed by a reception and 80th birthday toast.

13 September 2008

david foster wallace : 1962-2008

CLAREMONT, Calif. (AP) — David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department.

Wallace taught creative writing and English at nearby Pomona College.

"He cared deeply for his students and transformed the lives of many young people," said Dean Gary Kates. "It's a great loss to our teaching faculty."

Wallace's first novel, "The Broom of the System," gained national attention in 1987 for its ambition and offbeat humor. The New York Times said the 24-year-old author "attempts to give us a portrait, through a combination of Joycean word games, literary parody and zany picaresque adventure, of a contemporary America run amok."

Published in 1996, "Infinite Jest" cemented Wallace's reputation as a major American literary figure. The 1,000-plus-page tome, praised for its complexity and dark wit, topped many best-of lists. Time Magazine named "Infinite Jest" in its issue of the "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005."

Wallace received a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 1997.

In 2002, Wallace was hired to teach at Pomona in a tenured English Department position endowed by Roy E. Disney. Kates said when the school began searching for the ideal candidate, Wallace was the first person considered.

"The committee said, 'we need a person like David Foster Wallace.' They said that in the abstract," Kates said. "When he was approached and accepted, they were heads over heels. He was really the ideal person for the position."

Wallace's short fiction was published in Esquire, GQ, Harper's, The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Collections of his short stories were published as "Girl With Curious Hair" and "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men."

He wrote nonfiction for several publications, including an essay on the U.S. Open for Tennis magazine and a profile of the director David Lynch for Premiere.

Born in Ithaca, N.Y., Wallace attended Amherst College and the University of Arizona.

01 September 2008

the writer's edge 2009

Please help pass the word that we are accepting applications for the fourth annual Fiction Collective 2 (FC2) Writer's Edge workshop, held March 19-21, 2009, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the Universidad International. This year, the FC2 Writer's Edge will be held in conjunction with the American Book Review (ABR) Writer's Conference, held March 16-18.

Sponsored by FC2 and ABR, the conference will feature workshops on innovative fiction, panels, a faculty reading, open mics for participants, and myriad conversations about experimental prose.

Below are descriptions for the FC2 Writer's Edge workshops, as well as a list of the faculty teaching them. For more information on both the FC2 Writer's Edge and ABR Writer's Conference, including information on how to apply, please click here.


Alexandra Chasin

Creativity, we may imagine, resides in the imagination of the new. It’s cheating to use found texts and other objects. Yet at the same time the body of already-existing texts and artifacts is a vast archive too fantastic to consign to the dustbin of literary (and extra-literary) history. In fact, there is already a rich tradition of literature that imports bits of the world. And those bits needn’t be limited to literary texts. Newspapers, songs, legal documents, textbooks from any number of disciplines, medical records, maps, photos, and other images—not only is it not cheating to use such materials, but it opens up a new set of possibilities for writing into, out of, and/or about the historical record. For writers interested in investigating techniques of representing and referring to the phenomenal world and its infinite pasts and presents—techniques of incorporating its material effects into fictional work—this workshop will offer examples of, discussion of, and exercises in salvage, rereading, quotation, recycling, imitation, cut and paste, (re)appropriation, repetition, reproduction, revision, parody, hoax, and other acts of unoriginality. In preparation, you may want to acquaint yourself with the following fictions: Don Quixote, Kathy Acker; “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” Jorge Luis Borges; A Humument, Tom Philips; Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed.

Jeffrey DeShell

“Mediocre Writers Borrow; Great Writers Steal.” —T. S. Eliot
“Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.” —Pablo Picasso

Writing is never done in a vacuum; it occurs always in context. Often fiction writing is provoked by contact with other art forms like painting, music and film. If composition is a series of decisions about what goes where, shouldn’t the translating of decisions from painting, music and film into narrative language be possible? And if it is possible, how can we go about it? Or, to start from the other direction: how can we weave our obsessions with music, painting and film into our fiction writing? The Greek word for this translating is ekphrasis (which usually refers to poetry), and in the contemporary world we often speak of allegory and mimesis. We’ll try to bracket the theoretical discussions and center our discussion on practical larcenous techniques. Participants are asked to bring a representation (postcard, photocopy, photograph, mp3, film, video, etc.) or actual object of something they’d like to translate into prose. Students may also wish to read Gertrude Stein’s portraits of Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.

Stephen Graham Jones

So one argument and I don’t necessarily disbelieve it is that punctuation is just a parasite that all it is is the side effect of writing words down in these lines that it’s just a clumsy visual approximation of the natural rhythms of speech that in prose fiction are pretty much exactly what’s supposed to lull the reader into a state where the story can work or or a better way to say it maybe is that that unbroken patter and burble and spike of words is what transports the reader not off the page but into it face first ankle deep and evermore. But yeah, sometimes a comma sure is nice, right? Here we’ll talk about this, both in terse, nervous, over-punctuated sentences we try to laugh off and in long unbroken fragments that wander and forget themselves and then find each other in surprising ways. And we’ll do some writing as well. And never stop

Lance Olsen

Despite frequent (and frequently naïve) claims to the contrary, innovative fiction is neither necessarily ahistorical nor dehistoricized. Rather, it continually questions our culture’s suppositions about what constitutes historical knowledge, embracing the counter-intuitive recognition that texts are simultaneously self-conscious linguistic and formal systems shut off from the world and active participants in larger sociopolitical contexts. In this workshop, which will consist of mini-lecture, conversation, and two exercises, we shall explore the practical and theoretical joys, problemitizations, assumptions, and possibilities in engaging with the past(s)—“real” and imagined—inventively in writing. In preparation, you may want to acquaint yourself with the following fictions: Da Vinci’s Bicycle, Guy Davenport; History of the Imagination, Norman Locke; Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell; Nietzsche’s Kisses, Lance Olsen.

Lidia Yuknavitch

One of Gloria Anzaldúa's major contributions to United States academic and creative writing and discussion was the term mestizaje, meaning a state of being beyond binary (either-or) conception. In her theoretical works, Anzaldúa calls for a “new mestiza,” which she describes as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities who uses these “new angles of vision” to challenge old ways of thinking, being and writing. The work of Guillermo Gómez-Peña concerns the U.S.-Mexican border itself, immigration, cross-cultural identity, and the confrontation and misunderstandings between cultures and races. His artwork and literature also explores the politics of language, the side effects of globalization, “extreme culture,” and new technologies from a Latino perspective. Unlike what might happen at an academic conference, as creative writers we will be “inhabiting the territory” of their texts, and moving through their language as citizens of an unnamed country with identities forming at a border of language and geography. We will push ourselves through two major writing exercises meant to reinvent identity stories. In some ways we will be deconstructing whiteness and the position of the “U.S.” writer. We will also create a blog that “performs” our “texts” as an extension of the workshop. In preparation, you may want to acquaint yourself with the following: Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Anzuldua; The New World Border and Dangerous Border Crossers, Gómez-Peña. You may also want to check out some of Gómez-Peña’s performance work at the Video Artist Database: http://www.vdb.org/

11 August 2008

Federman's Return

Raymond Federman turned 80 this past May. In 2009, a collection of essays tentatively titled FEDERMAN AT 80: From Surfiction to Critifiction, edited by Jeffrey DiLeo, will appear from SUNY Press, and this October 18 there will be a celebration of Federman and this forthcoming collection in Buffalo, where Federman taught for some 30 years at University at Buffalo.

I've just finished reading Return to Manure, Federman's 2006 "novel," or whatever one wants to call Federman's particular way of telling elements of his incredible life-story, where he writes about things that have happened to him, but doesn't distinguish between memory and imagination, the real and the made up.

It occurs to me that what I didn't articulate in my disgusted entry of a couple weeks ago about the creative nonfiction workshop "Turning Trauma to Treasure," was the degree of self-exploitation involved in such an attitude toward telling one's own experiences, a degree of selling out that Federman has rejected not only for his whole writing life but, arguably, for his entire life. The starkest formulation of this problem is seen in Federman's crucial single-sentence narrative tour de force, The Voice in the Closet. (The above image, a collage by Buffalo artist Terri Katz Kasimov, is featured on the cover of the Starcherone Books edition of that book, pub. in 2002.) There, Federman tells his most traumatic story: the French police having come to the door of his family's apartment in Paris, in 1942, and his mother saying only "Ssshhh," and pushing him in a closet where he alone in his family would escape detection. Except he doesn't tell it, doesn't assume that the "treasure" he will get by doing so will be worth the diminishment of the trauma that will result from its conversion into mere words on a page.

The narration embodies this dilemma by actually breaking the protagonist in two: the writer who would purport to tell the story is accused and cursed throughout by a second voice, that of the narrrator's younger self, the child who lived the experience and who realizes that a straight narrative articulation of it will have to be a distortion, a lie, an alchemy whereby, after "trauma" gets turned into "treasure," it loses something of itself, its own integrity.

Perhaps this is a reason why Federman's story and the art by which it comes to an audience has failed to find as large an audience in the United States as it has in France, Germany, Romania, Poland, and elsewhere. I was in Toronto over the weekend, and at one point accompanied my 16 year-old niece into Queen St. t-shirt shop. (Queen St. is sort of like a longer, cleaner version of NYC's St. Marks Place.) One of the t-shirts there featured only three words, but summed up how the big country to the South has a rather fundamentally different identity. The shirt said, simply, AMERICA LOVES MONEY. Sad to live in a country that can be summed up in such a way. Here, narrative "trauma" apparently needs conversion into "treasure" -- narrative payoff -- to gain its full share of an audience. Remaining "trauma," a state wherein the wounded is also afflicted with shock and the inability to perform narrative alchemy fully, it doesn't acquire its full value with an American audience conditioned to respond to the "treasure" being laid at their feet while they recline on the couch, faces glowing.

Return to Manure precisely avoids narrative payoff. "Federman" (never merely the author, but never not entirely the author either) and his wife Erica drive in the French countryside to the farm where he as a boy had escaped Nazi radar in the years 1942-5, subsequent to the closet episode. The narrative meanders like a drive itself, with alternating periods of roadside attraction and boredoms during which the narrator slips back into his memories. The memories do not particularly highlight emotional pain but skip through details of the nearly pre-industrial peasant life lived in the French countryside nearly a lifetime ago, as well as recollections of a 14 year-old's growing sexual awareness and stories he made up. When in the end Federman and Erica get to the farm itself at the end of the book, there is no epiphany, unless it be an anti-epiphany: the landscape holds no secrets waiting to be found. Around the back of the barn Federman finds no gleaming treasure, but just another pile of cowshit, smaller than the one at the farm of his youth because now there are fewer cows.

Federman has long maintained that the story of the Holocaust is (to use one of his words, with the cow pun accidental), "unutterable." In the introduction to the forthcoming SUNY Press collection, Charles Bernstein writes that Federman is not a writer of fiction, but a storyteller, that he writes the same stories again and again because that is what storytelling and history both do -- they evoke reality, a complex of delusions and non-delusions. Quite coincidentally (I just read Bernstein's piece for the first time, as I prepare to spring it on the local Buffalo media in advance of the October Federman celebration), Bernstein also describes how Federman's art differs from the Creative Nonfiction vogue: "The elementary error of the literature of self-help and affirmation, the preferred fiction of the mediocracy," writes Bernstein, "is that trauma is overcome, that you get better, that there is healing. That there can be understanding. Federman neither dwells on the abyss, nor theatricalizes it, nor explains it, nor looks away."

This is the farm at the end of Return to Manure: it is not rendered into a trope, symbol, metaphor, emblem, narrative climax, or any other form an author makes. The author resists those alchemies. The farm simply is. The power of such a narrative moment is that, without it being given a single, intended effect, you are left with life and with history, which also offer no easy explanations or resolutions.

[We've got no money, NY State being in a budget crisis ("dollars damn me," said Melville), but whoever wants to come to Buffalo October 18 to help celebrate Federman's life and achievements should let me know, either via this blog or by email and I'll give you the details.]

10 August 2008

Interviews from the Edge 5: Davis Schneiderman and Carlos Hernandez

This new episode in Chiasmus Press' ongoing author interview series is a tag-team event with Davis Schneiderman and Carlos Hernandez, authors of the collaborative novel Abecedarium. They talk about the novel's conception and creation, the importance of explicit collaboration, and scamming their way into a book competition.

Visit carlos-hernandez.net and www.davisschneiderman.com to keep up with the authors and their current projects. Thanks for listening.

03 August 2008

Got Dugatti?

Chiasmus Press is proud to announce that Stephen Graham Jones' latest novel, The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti, is now available on Amazon.com. Here's the back cover propaganda:

If there's a line between the real and the digital, between meat and the game, between past and present, then hold this book close to your mouth and whisper it into the pages. Please. Maybe the kid in there'll hear you. His name is Nolan Dugatti. He's lost, see, running down hall after hall, something both ancient and not-yet born galloping up behind him on a hundred legs, each individual footfall a sound he knows, a way of shuffling that he's always known. His father? Except it can't be. Unless of course this is another novel from Stephen Graham Jones. Not quite horror, not quite science fiction, but like his five or six other books, a story trembling at some pupal stage between meat and the game, where words will sometimes stop their crawl across the page and crane their neck around at the sky, nod about what they see there-you- then unfold their wings, drift up into another world altogether.

Check out Stephen's latest blog post here, in which he explains the method and madness of a novel written---yes---in a 72-hour blast of fright and delight.