Sukenick responds to Fleisher’s feminist critique of “Narralogues” in the voice of his own fictional jeune-fille, Jane.
>–> In Act 3 of “Reforming Creative Writing Pedagogy,” Kass Fleisher considers a scene from Ron Sukenick’s book, Narralogues, in which (writes Fleisher) “…Sukenick’s Waldo meets up with a ‘jeune-fille’ who wins ‘a point in her favor’ when she says she likes Rabelais. Their (clearly competitive) conversation is narrated from Waldo’s point of view, so jeune-fille is subjected to his gaze (we’re not told what this ‘plain and pious looking’ student with a ‘pneumatic fleshiness’ thinks of Old Fart Waldo who judges people by whether they like Rabelais and are fleshy).” Sukenick, in reply, re-narrates the scene from Jane’s point of view:
Of course I know what he’s after really. Any older man is just after any young girl’s butt, even if he pretends to like totally dislike her. Really, we all know that. And he’s such an old fart too, like he must be at least twenty-eight, what’s an old jerk like that doing giving me the once over just because I’m wearing a super tight sweater? And then inviting me out for a walk in the woods to teach me something about bird songs and writing. Oh sure, he’s just fascinated with my bod and hot to get into my pants. They’re all hypocrites, we know that. And we all know that young female undergrads are sweet and intelligent, and if they’re not we shouldn’t say so. What an uncool jerk, he thinks he can talk to birds. And his admiration for the books of this guy Sukenick, one of which they forced me to read in my American Lit course, and was completely incomprehensible. I can tell he thinks I’m stupid ó well, I think he’s stupid. I’ve got issues with him. He’s too skinny, and he needs a shave and looks poor and he talks like a nerd. Twenty-eight. I wonder what it would be like to screw an old guy like that? He’s obviously obsessed with sex. And he talks so much. Conversation is so aggressive and male. It’s like an invasion of my mental space, i.e., rape. That’s it, it’s a kind of verbal rape ó he knows what he’s doing. But what am I doing? I don’t want to criticize, that’s not cool. Why can’t we just hug and osmose? I know why, it’s because Waldo is just a mouthpiece for Sukenick, it’s so lame, like when he said Sukenick’s “Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues” is one of his best books and gave a list of the terminology of a whole new rhetoric of reality found in it. He told me to complain to my professors if I didn’t understand it. Later, in the chateau, I called him on this last remark, and he said it was ironic. Meaning you don’t say what you really mean. Like I found that real confusing and unAmerican ó real Americans say what they mean straight out, and sneaky talk like that is liable to penetrate my mental defenses, i.e., rape. Anyways, I met this woman in the chateau named Rose, she’s from the “Narralogue on Everything” and I’m from one called “Chat,” and I said to her that I thought novels were about action like movies, and she said novels weren’t movies but more like poems or paintings, and she said the action involved was thinking, which a friend of hers named Wally Stevens called an act of the mind, a violence within against a violence without, i.e., rape. I don’t really understand all this, but I guess I better read “Narralogues.” After all, I’m in it. Anyways, I learned in my writing workshop that the whole point is to stop thinking, to work like a carpenter following blueprints, to put things together like they’ve always been put together without questioning what that implies. I guess that’s the theory, though Rose says it’s an unexamined theory. And the chatelaine, what they call the mistress of the chateau, who seems to be a tough old bird herself, and who claims like Waldo to talk with Edgar Allen, the Crow, says a little bird told her that writing is like marriage, a combination of argument and love, chance and passion, seduction and heartbreak, not meant for the timid or the faint of heart. Anyways, what I wanted to say when Waldo left me standing in the forest path with my mouth open, is that I didn’t need to get lost, I am lost. And who is going to find me? If I can’t be part of the “Narralogues,” even as an ephebe, in its polylogue palaver about these issues.