May 6, 2011

Writing Against the Market

In “How, and How Not, to Be a Published Novelist: The Case of Raymond Federman,” Ted Pelton reviews Federman’s publishing career. His contribution asks why a writer that is internationally regarded and has several major awards including the American Book Award “has never had a book published by a major U.S. imprint.” Pelton maintains that while Federman had a number of opportunities to publish with major U.S. publishers—for example, St. Martin’s Press was interested in Smiles on Washington Square (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1985) and Little, Brown, & Company was interested in Double or Nothing (Swallow Press, 1971)—the author chose not to publish with these major publishers. For Federman, the decision to publish with small presses (rather than major presses) was based on the author’s decision to maintain his aesthetic integrity, rather than to make concessions to the market-driven editorial suggestions made by the major U.S. publishers that approached him. Pelton observes that though a few of Federman’s peers had books published with major U.S. publishers, this was the exception, rather than the rule.

Pelton points out that in the case of Double or Nothing as well as other works, Federman “made the decision to rework his own manuscript precisely against marketplace feedback.” In this regard, Federman’s publishing career “serves as a unique measure of the nonparticipation of American publishing in innovative American fi ction.” Pelton maintains that the task of publishers should be to support the work of writers like Federman “whose texts bring us new understandings of what constitutes the art form”—not to dictate to them what they should write based on economic motives. Federman’s “refusal to write straight narrative,” suggests Pelton, against the wishes of major American publishers, provides us with “perhaps the most notable case in our time of the writer who growled at his purported master and, by doing so, became his own.”

Emphasis mine. From "Other Voices: The Fiction of Raymond Federman," Jeffrey R. Di Leo's introduction (pdf) to Federman's Fictions: Innovation, Theory, and the Holocaust (SUNY UP, 2011).

Raymond Federman site.

Ted Pelton page.


Ted said...

Hey, thanks for taking note of this! Since this essay was published in a pricey University Press book, I wasn't sure who would see it in the place where people actually see things, on the internet. Cheers!

Edmond Caldwell said...

Hi Ted:

You're welcome -- it's my pleasure. I'm greatly looking forward to reading your essay and the whole book when I get the chance (I got a recall notice out for it at the library of the campus where my wife works -- otherwise it'd be too pricey for me, too!).

Thanks for writing!


John Domini said...

Ed, Ted, splendid cross-cultural reach. *Complimenti.