May 9, 2011


What follows is a strange, nameless state, in which the present, which is as wide as the whole of time is long, seems to have risen, from who knows where, to the surface of who knows what, and in which what I was, which in and of itself in no way amounted to much, now knows that it is here, in the present, knows it, without being able however to pursue its knowledge any farther and without having sought, in the fraction of a second prior to that state, by any means whatsoever, to catch a glimpse of it. This state is going away now; and now, in the darkness, the sounds, the murmurs, the chorus of cicadas, the barking of a dog at the other end of town, begin, gradually, to come unbound from each other, to separate, building up, out of the black, compact mass of night, levels, dimension, heights, various distances, a structure of sounds that produce, in the uniform blackness, a precarious, fragile space, whose distribution in the blackness continuously changes shape, duration, and one might even say, to put it into words somehow, place. But now it is gone: it is as if an errant wave, a phosphorescent image of many colors combined in a harmonious way, had been reflected, on passing, for a few instants, through me, and had then continued on its way, leaving me in that other firmer, more permanent state, in which everything is within reach of my fingertips, with the same accessibility as a ship inside a bottle.

Juan José Saer, from Nobody Nothing Never (Serpent’s Tail, 1993), translated by Helen Lane.

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.