Pinocchio's Piccolo, or, How Tristram Shandy Got It Straight: Searching in Raymond Federman's Body Shards

Pinocchio's Piccolo, or, How Tristram Shandy Got It Straight: Searching in Raymond Federman's Body Shards

2006-10-04
My Body in Nine Parts
Raymond Federman
Buffalo, NY: Stacherone P, 2005.

Michael Wutz writes of how, in Raymond Federman’s My Body in Nine Parts, body parts are represented as having registered, inscribed, contributed to Federman’s life.

Lori Emerson:

See our review-essay on the 2005 &Now Conference in which Ted Pelton addresses the difficulty of getting experimental writing published in the U.S.

2006-10-04
Lori Emerson:

For a related essay that argues in support of Federman as a political thinker, see Jan Baetans’ review of Larry McCaffery’s Federman A to X-X-X-X: A Recyclopedic Narrative.

2006-10-04
Lori Emerson:

Even the photograph complementing this section does not show Federman’s private part, but invites private imaginations to visualize what is covered up by Federman’s cupped hands.

2006-10-04

What do William Gaddis, Charles Bukowski, and Raymond Federman have in common? Leaving aside their masculinity, all three have been pressed to margins of discourse by the literary culture industry because they refuse(d) to fit themselves properly into their assigned slots. All three understood themselves early as challenging prevailing notions of fictional form by proposing counter-models that demand that readers, in Julio Cortázar’s well-known phrase, become “co-conspirators”: active participants in a narrative interface that removes the musty veil of “see-through” realism in favor of texts that foreground their resistance, materiality, and thickness (less so in the case of Bukowski) and that encourage readers to acknowledge the very fictionality of reality. Bukowski, like the late Gaddis, has repeatedly been depicted as the down-and-out drunk defying bourgeois assumptions of earning a livelihood and getting his stimulating highs from hard liquor. In addition to the widely circulating film Barfly (1987), scripted by Bukowski himself and starring Mickey Rourke, the 2006 Sundance feature Factotum portrays Matt-Dillon-cum-Bukowski as a sex-crazed alcoholic suffering from Romantic world weariness. And all three, while virtually unknown to the larger American reading public, have found an appreciative audience in Germany, the country of Kultur, where readers variously admire their work for “the quality of the writing, the daring of the writing, the blasphemy of the writing, the effrontery of the writing, in other words, the beauty of this laughterature” (Federman, “Word-Being”).

Ray Federman is here speaking about his own success in Germany, of course, that includes numerous radio plays, books in print available nowhere else, a modern ballet based on his writings, and even a jazz/poetry CD, but the observation holds no less true for Bukowski - who has become a cult figure in certain circles - and Gaddis. For detailed summaries of Federman’s success in Germany, see Ron Sukenick’s “After the Fact” and Mark Amerika’s interview with Federman, reprinted in the Federman special edition of the Journal of Experimental Fiction 23 (79-98 and 417-23, respectively). For Gaddis’s German reception, including the commissioned radio play Torschlußpanik originally broadcast in February 1999 by the Deutschlandfunk, see Walter van Rossum, “Am Ende war Geschwätz der Anfang: Rudernde Stimme Ohne Auftrag” and “Lange Nacht.” I will return to the German fascination with contemporary American writers, and Federman, in particular, later, but note here that this ingenious twisting of literary form and the inveterate experimentation with style and subject matter is also evident in My Body in Nine Parts, the latest installment by the venerable grandmaster of surfiction and critfiction. On the surface, or should I say, surfiction, of it, Nine Parts proposes itself as a body-centered autobiography, of sorts, as a slender and unassuming volume in which seriousness and humor, the grotesque and the absurd, Eros and Thanatos, and joie de vivre and mal du siècle alternate in playful dalliance. By asking how certain body parts have registered, inscribed, and/or contributed to crucial experiences in his life, Federman develops what could be called an idiosyncratic history of embodied recollection that allows him to revisit select primal scenes that have marked his bicultural career as a private and professional being. By going, quite literally, from head to toe, though not in what would be most anathema to his work (that is, in linear order), he maps a personal history onto his body, or, more accurately, he composes a punctual autobiografiction from those chosen segments of his body that prompt him to recollect, in the tranquility of age, critical spots of time. Never one to miss a pun, Federman describes his ritualized toenail clipping as going “if I may venture an anatomic neologism, chronotoegically,” from the pinkie on the left foot toward the big toe, much in contrast to the chronological dislocations of his narratives (53).

Thus, Federman’s body parts take him back to some of those biographical sites familiar to readers of his work, such as his time as a boxer in the U.S. which serves as one explanation for his crooked nose (38) and which helped him get the skill - and thrill - to pummel his wife’s ex-husband: “I have never felt more pleased with myself than that day” (122). Similarly, his nose bridges the associative link between breathing and competitive swimming, when Federman was on the verge of qualifying for the 1948 Olympics, or between his nasal curvature and his life as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in Korea when, so the story goes, he landed on his face rather than his butt (38-9). In the opening chapter, Federman’s hair becomes a reminder of his orphanhood when the fledgling teenager styles his own feathers into a “duck tail” (15); and later, when the forty-year-old writer suffers a professional crisis, the symbolic removal of this blockage coincides with his wife’s famed “imperial haircut” that produces a laughing fit echoing through the halls of fiction to this very day (18). From frustration over writing that “kept canceling itself as I was writing it,” Federman leaped into a comic vision - often grotesque and absurd, like that of his mentor and friend Samuel Beckett - that would produce Double or Nothing, The Voice in the Closet, and a stream of daring avant-garde work: “That day I invented the leap-frog technique. Better known as Laughterature” (18). Federman’s youthful “duck tail” is another iteration in the, seemingly infinite, possibilities of play in his name. As he put it in an essay on his name, “The name Federman is a polylingual pun. Feder is German for feder, and so Federman would be featherman - der Mensch von Feder” (Federman). Federman’s idea of leap-frogging playgiarism is, obviously, fully at work here. Significantly, Federman associates this breakthrough with his political activism during the student revolts in France in 1968 and with his forward-facing coiffure to suggest not linearity as much as revolution and progression (24). Thus, the general pattern of Nine Parts: by, in effect, disassembling his body into teeth, feet, sensory organs, and select prominent markers, Federman assembles a life-text in the manner of a mosaicist, or an archeologist of experience piecing together shards of embodied memory. In no case is this piecing together a claim toward total recall, as certain action figures and body-builders would have it. Rather, Nine Parts insists that any personal history is as fractured and fictionalized as any body history, and to deny this fragmentation is to perpetuate brittle notions of wholeness, coherence and totality.

Beyond these immediate resonances of Federman’s life, Nine Parts features those qualities of transgressive oscillation, linguistic exuberance, and allusive play that make it vintage Federman. Like the Voice in the Closet or Double or Nothing, but in a minor key, the book examines the complementary synergy between languages, as the infusion of French into English, or, better, their interplay, allows for a richer palette of literary expression than any single language would. Thus, “décrotter is so much more descriptive, so much more precise, than the English expression, to pick your nose … . Even the sound of the word makes you hear and feel the action of décrottage” (36). Conversely, when describing his head of hair, Federman notes that, “in French one is forced to rely on two words to express fullness - Expansion Totale. The word plein does not sound right for hair. But fullness … sounds just right” (30). Similarly, to emphasize the rapport between his hands and eyes, Federman derives the word toucheur from voyeur, “in the positive sense of the term. I like to touch what I see, and see what I touch” (110). And when he invokes a fellow theorist to describe his right ear’s tendency to be self-absorbed, he offers a metacritical/critifictional commentary on self-enclosure and withdrawal that is very much at odds with his postmodern ethos of outreach, boundary breakdown, and immersion. The right ear, he says, “invaginate[s] herself, if I may borrow a word from Derrida. One of his better inventions. L’invagination de texte” (92). Thus, by replacing the ground rules of L’Academie Française - the French linguistic border patrol forbidding verbal transgressions - with his own rules of jouissance and playgiarism, Federman demonstrates the cross-pollinating effects of bilingualism or, if you will, his verbal schizophrenia or vocal doubling. Federman reflects on the problem of literary translation in “A Voice Within A Voice”. He elaborates on how one language can compensate for the blind spots of another language: “translating one’s work into another language often reveals the poverty, the semantic but also the metaphorical poverty of certain words in the other language.” The act of self-translation “often augments, enriches, and even embellishes the original text - enriches it, not only in terms of meaning, but in its music, its rhythm, its metaphoric thickness, and even it its syntactical complexity.” Similar sustained reflections on translation by Harry Mathews, who is also a multi-lingual American author, are available in ebr.

As well, in keeping with his previous work, Nine Parts reaches beyond itself to rattle the bars of the prisonhouse of print. Numerous bracketed inserts refer readers, in pursuit of fuller or different versions of events, to other of his works and point to a hypertextual assemblage fettered in by the bounds of the book. The black-and-white close-ups of body parts that open each section similarly suggest a synergy between print and image common in today’s digital environments (and is reinforced by the cultural double crossing of the artists: Federman was, and still is, a French writer who has become American; Steve Murez is “an American photographer in Paris who has become French” [131]). And the digressive play of the text undermines the artifice of linearity while emphasizing the texturedness of life’s narrative and the cognitive processing of experience that resists any segmentation into discrete chapters: “Please excuse the detour, but I think that’s relevant,” as Federman puts it (27). As Federman put it in Surfiction: Fiction Now and Tommorow in 1975, when experimental fiction began to anticipate current meditations on hypertext: “All the rules and principles of printing and bookmaking must be forced to change as a result of the changes in the writing (or the telling) of a story in order to give the reader a sense of free participation in the writing/reading process, in order to give the reader an element of choice (active choice) in the ordering of the discourse and the discovery of its meaning” (9). See Mark Amerika, “Triptych: Hypertext, Surfiction, Storyworlds,” for an elaboration of Federman’s anticipations of hypertext. R.M. Berry’s “The Avant-Garde and the Question of Literature” is a recent critique of Federman’s self-conscious use of textual materiality, especially in Take It or Leave It. Berry notes that, in order for Federman’s use of white space to “count as an artistic advance, as a discovery of fiction…it would need to reveal something about novels generally, about the function of white space, line length, arrangement of text, or margins…White space for Federman is expressive. In this sense, we could say that his discovery is more of the page as a space for action than of the action of the page itself.”

Such deferrals of closure also point to the literary hall of fame with which the word-being Federman associates himself. While Beckett and Joyce are never far away, Nine Parts closely echoes those that have put kinks into narrative coherence and truth. “I speak therefore I am,” rephrases Descartes’ formula about a meandering mind speaking itself into verbal existence. Federman’s battle wounds suggest an Odysseus recognized by his scars and exiled from his home (while gesturing toward Joyce’s wandering Jew). And the narratives of his nose point to Cyrano de Bergerac and Pinocchio whose protruberant organs become barometers of truth and falsehood: “according to certain people, I have a tendency to exaggerate when I tell stories. Perhaps even the tale of my nose may not be totally factual” (44). Indeed, Federman correlates his deviant stories (in more senses than one) with his deviant proboscis to suggest a correspondence between narrative and nasal curvatures and between himself and the nose-man looping around in much of Nine Parts: Laurence Sterne. Never mentioned by name, Sterne’s Tristram, like Federman’s Federman, sports a nose that is declared to be both masculine and sexy and that serves as a cryptic figuration of narrative and erotic drive. While a nose may sometimes be only a nose, in the case of Federman and Sterne it playfully points to that which cannot be said. Because talking openly about one’s “sexual organ” might “shock those who claim it is in bad taste,” Federman, like Sterne, prefers not to speak of it directly, instead letting readers “indirectly imagine the adventures and misadventures of this rather private part of my body” (74). Even the photograph complementing this section does not show Federman’s private part, but invites private imaginations to visualize what is covered up by Federman’s cupped hands.

The structural arrangement of Nine Parts complements such appropriation of voice in the formation of a textual self. If Federman’s surcharged hairdo in the first chapter is a voluntary and corrective cut on the body, the scars catalogued at the end of the book are mostly involuntary, singular, and inerasable (at least by natural means). At both its points of entry and exit (leaving aside a list-like addendum), the text recognizes the body as an inscription surface, as a text of skin or parchment in its own right recording indelible impressions or traces of physical experience. In Agapē Agape, Wiliam Gaddis - like Tristram Shandy terminally ill and writing against the pressure of time - describes his body as a brittle writing surface as well, noting that his skin feels “like tissue paper blotches” and “dry old parchment” (26, 11). The voice as the instrument vocalizing these experiences, however, is itself not embodied, but an effect of physiological processes. To acknowledge its import in the translation from experience to text, and to give it the very embodiment it articulates, Federman places the chapter on voice at the very center of his narrative and encircles it with body parts. As well, as if to redouble his literary-critical spiel, Federman in this section reflects on the act of voicing itself. With suitable overtones of Beckett or Nietzsche, he notes that residing in any work of art “is a voice - always a voice - and this voice that speaks our origins [the nothingness whence we came before we uttered our first word], speaks at the same time our end [the nothingness towards which we are crawling]” (68). This passage, including the bracketed inserts, could well echo a French post-structuralist textbook, or be a montage of a “primary” passage with the interpretive gloss of a theorist, and hence be a version of Federman’s critifiction. At the same time, by rewriting the passage in the second paragraph in the voice of philosophical absurdity and then explaining it in more literary terms, Federman’s programmatic pronouncement invites being seen as an example of his trademark surfiction, in which writing and rewriting often complement one another in a dialogic sequence of Bakhtinian voices that knows no closure or linearity:

the voice is at the same time birth [or resurrection] and death [or transfiguration]. This voice is what resists the nothingness that precedes us and the nothingness that confronts us. Or to put it more poetically: The breath whose domestication in the throat of the human animal created the voice that engendered the conscious and moral [or immoral] mystical beast that we are tells the whole human adventure. (68)

Significantly, the passage draws attention to the emergence of intangible voice from the tangible body - to give it weight, or “body” - to the formation of self through speech, and to the ethical, political dimension of any utterance.

This ethical, political dimension of utterance is also inscribed in Federman’s virtually allegorical preference for embodied leftness or gaucherie. Time and again, the political activist and participant in student rallies notes that, while a broken wrist as a boy has made him largely right-handed, he favors left-leaning body parts and considers himself “a converted lefty” (“Voice”). Thus, in the chapter on “My Broken Molar,” he wonders whether he chews mostly on the left side of his mouth “because of a nostalgic remembrance of my left-handedness” (81). While his right ear, he feels, tends to curve in on itself and shut itself off, the left is highly attuned to sound and can appreciate the rich tonalities of a Mahler symphony conducted by Pierre Boulez (92-94). Federman’s description of the contradictory nature of his ears is, certainly by contemporary feminist accounts, sexist in the extreme, and Federman himself has acknowledged as much about his work. While considering himself “a great feminist,” sexism “is part of my make up, part of my history, and it’s there. And I’ll assume all the blame if there’s blame to be assumed” (Bernstein 77). The toes of his left foot “have compassion for one another” and “suffer collectively”: “they are like a family”; the toes on his right, by contrast, “are like a gathering of foreigners in exile. They never talk to each other. Never do anything together” (56).

As an expression of his political leanings, this weighted asymmetry can also be understood as an abstract mapping of geographic space and Federman’s cultural schizophrenia (not unlike the North-South dichotomy in the work of Elizabeth Bishop, who lived for decades in exile in Brazil). To the left of France, Federman’s country of birth (one hesitates the use the word “origin”) is the West, specifically, the United States as the space of future coming-into-being and professional and private success; to the right are Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe, the historical site of the death camps and the extermination of Federman’s family, a space without future where people, in Federman’s memorable phrase, have already “changed tense.” It is almost as if the body topography of left and right maps the coordinates of life and death and negotiates the polarities of beginning and end, hope and resignation, life and loss. The orphaned and exiled toes of his right foot certainly belie the family romance on his left, the wishful thinking Federman has voiced on more than one occasion: “I have to still believe, as I often do, that one of these days around a street corner I am going to meet my sisters. I still believe that. Strongly” (Bernstein 70). Federman’s nome de plume, Moinous, a left-to-right compound of the French pronouns moi (me) and nous (we), expresses no less, an alias attempting in vain to fuse a sundered self with the originary plenitude of family.

It is against this background of Auschwitz, where the bodies of Federman’s family were reduced to the feathery weight of ashes, that his own autobiographical body arguably comes into play most forcefully. While Nine Parts, no less than most of Federman’s other work, is not “about” the Holocaust and loss, the Shoah is the absent center of this body text, the tragedy that eludes representation in language even as it seeks to be represented in print. Charles Caramello has argued that “the central event in Federman’s fiction is not the extermination of his family, but the erasure of that extermination as a central event,” the recurring primal scene whose very unrepresentability is indelibly lodged in Federman’s memory (132). And Federman himself has acknowledged that he inscribes “the central unspeakable event within an aesthetic of fiction that proscribes both necessity and impossibility,” or, to put it differently, through the strategies of “evasion and digression” (“Jewish Writer”). One common way survivors manage the trauma of the Holocaust, he suggests (much in keeping with current accounts of loss and mourning), is repression, if not silence altogether, which in Nine Parts translates into a kind of verbal circumnavigation: the fragmented presentation of the event itself, or its bodily displacement.

Thus, Federman allows readers only punctual glimpses into the unspeakable which almost always gesture toward deferral and repression: he alludes to his family’s deportation in the tale of his toe injury when he suddenly finds himself “a displaced person. During the great war. No need to go into that sordid story again” (63). The memory of his mother’s beautiful, tearful, black eyes is disrupted when another flashback reminds him that these eyes “were brutally closed. But that’s another story” (104). And the story of the scar on his left knee is, significantly, displaced onto the point of view of the speaking scar itself and refers, in concentrated and allusive form, to the “series of sad and traumatic misadventures that made of you an orphan” (118). The closest Federman ever allows himself to speak directly to and about the Holocaust is, significantly as well, in reference to a body part, but not the entire body itself. His “Jewish nose” is a reminder of “centuries and centuries of insults and humiliations that my ancestors had to endure,” but it is also an embodied displacement of the unnamable trauma: “I think of [my nose] as a topological monument to the memory of those who were exterminated because of the shape of their noses” (34). Just as the nose functions as a pars pro toto - a part of the body that stands for the body in its entirety - so it represents metonymically the global tragedy that escapes representation as a totality, but can only be portrayed in bits and pieces, shards and shrapnel, organs and body parts. What he has elsewhere signified as (x-x-x-x) - the bracketed and exxed out life of his parents and sisters, and the “cancelled” life of all Holocaust victims, generally - he expresses in Nine Parts through a part of his body.

For that reason, it is not until the closing section of Nine Parts that Federman features the scars on his body, the inscriptions of pain and loss that recall a body once intact and bodies gone. Or, to put it differently, the scars on Federman’s own body surface - reminders of wounds now healed - refer to the psychological wound inside, the unrepresentable and un-embodied injury in need of healing, yet unhealable. Echoing the book’s division of his body into Nine Parts, Federman in this section catalogues nine scars, as if to suggest that, like a cat and much in contrast to his murdered family, he has nine lives that have allowed him to survive it all. Of those nine scars, he favors those four that mark “a traumatic moment in my life” and that are, without exception, markers of survival (114). The scar on the back of his head is the result of falling from an apple tree (the tree of knowledge) that “could have killed myself, but I suppose it was not yet the right moment. My body was not ready for the big journey, nor was my soul” (117). The second principal scar, on the left knee, obtained by crawling through a barbed wire fence while fleeing from a barnyard animal, lets him reflect: “But that day, I could have been killed by a bull. Obviously, it was still too soon” (121). Federman’s crawl through a barbed wire fence while being pursued (with barbs digging into the left knee) also carries imagined overtones of an attempted escape from a death camp (see esp. 120). The bull chasing Federman on the farm is called “Charlot,” the French diminutive of Charles (and the moniker of Charlie Chaplin’s role as the Tramp), but the name may also hearken back to “Charlemagne,” and thus refer to the evil pursuers otherwise known as les boches. The escape certainly is a highly-surcharged courses des vaches with profoundly tragic overtones. The scar on the left index finger is the result of the gratifying fist fight mentioned earlier, but “if my wife’s x had succeeded in stabbing me with his knife, I might not be telling this story. But I suppose, once again it was not the right moment for me to make the big leap” (122). And without the prostate surgery that resulted in scar number four, “I would perhaps be gone already” (123). Significantly, in what amounts to a distancing gesture that is only half-parodic, each of the scars is assigned a female figure from Greek mythology (Eurydice, Daphne, Electra, and Antigone) speaking in their own voice, as if to mute and multiply displace what is always present but forever unsaid: the extermination of his family. Federman’s sensibility toward survival is also evident when he notes the death of fellow Frenchman Marcel Cerdan, the 1948 middle-weight boxing world champion, in a plane crash (the only death directly mentioned in Nine Parts) while flying to the United States, shortly after his own arrival in the United States (37).

An intimate look at the close-up accompanying the chapter on scars even suggests what Federman fils may have experienced as the most intimate trauma when the Nazis came for their cleanup operation: the loss of his mother, the very person that had pushed the little boy into the closet (and thus engendered the urszene that feeds much of Federman’s oeuvre). One doesn’t have to put Federman on the couch and invoke reductive oedipal configurations to suggest that the shot ostensibly shows the scar of his prostrate surgery but actually features his belly button in tandem with the scar, the two marks of his body that are intimately connected to birth and procreation: the one a generational link connecting mother and son, and beyond to their joint (Jewish, Russian, and German) lineage, the other one a surgical scar that quite likely saved his life and sex life. Federman says of this scar that “it made me suffer a great deal, and still makes me suffer. If not physically, at least psychologically.” For that reason, he describes it as being “very grave, grave in the sense of gravity,” and I would add, grave in the absence of a grave. Like his navel, the prostrate scar “was not only essential but necessary. All the others were strictly accidental”; and just as, without the operation, he might “already have changed tense,” so the navel serves as the lifeline into the world that made being in tense possible in the first place (122-23). The scar carries the telling name Antigone and will be a lifelong reminder of primal mortality and loss: “Just as the daughter of Oedipus stayed with him until he died, my Antigone will stay with me forever” (122). While Antigone of course is not Oedipus’ mother, Federman’s use of the myth suggests a form of filial bonding refracted through the prism of postmodern play. After all, unlike Oedipus, Federman is not blind, but, like Oedipus, he “can see even better with [his] eyes closed,” which is when he sees “the beautiful big eyes of my mother” (105). If his earlier announcement to “discuss my belly-button” (while telling of another injury) never comes to pass, but is displaced onto the photograph, that photograph shows - but does not speak - that the omphalos, surrounded by another life-giving scar, may indeed reside at the very center of Federman’s unspeakable loss (89).

Writing about the psychological rather then physical trauma of the Holocaust, in Nine Parts and much of his other work, may thus help account for Federman’s appeal in Germany. As part of their willingness to look history in the face - their Vergangenheitsbewältigung - Germans have cultivated a tradition of reading writers, both Jewish and non, that stand as literary witnesses to the atrocities of World War II, from Philip Roth and Serge Doubrovsky to Elie Wiesel and Tadeusz Borowski, Cynthia Ozick and Sylvia Plath, Arthur Miller and Adrienne Rich, among many others. Federman’s case may be a bit special in that he does not, unlike some other writers, provide grisly details of the Nazi Murder Machine, instead preferring not only to not stare at Germany with an evil eye, but also treating the most morose subject matter with comedy and laughter, perhaps with a sensibility not unlike that seen in Roberto Benigni’s profoundly humorous Life is Beautiful, winner of the 1998 Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. While German readers may not be able to laugh at themselves, Federman’s work suggests that they, no less than other readers, are living in a condition of the Post-Holocaust, the “universal affair in which we were all implicated and are still” (“Word-Being”). The split pronoun-doubling of his moniker, Moinous (me/we), again suggests as much.

As well, Federman enjoys a special status in Germany because of his dual Franco-American roots. A writer close to home who writes in a second/foreign language, a writer who at the same time continues to write in his mother tongue, and a writer who returns to France periodically, Federman not only has the intellectual respect of a sizeable portion of the educated German reading public; he also reminds them (arguably more so than writers born and raised on the other side of the Atlantic) of the joint history with their neighbor left of the Rhine. Germany and France have been engaged in a nationwide post-war reconciliation and friendship program starting with the days of Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, and the jumelage, together with the pan-European sensibility emerging in the 1970s, is part of the political and cultural framing conditions for Federman’s positive reception in Germany.

Most importantly, perhaps, American literature and American studies departments at German universities cultivated a scholarly appreciation of experimental, postmodern American writing at about the same time, which then quickly diffused into a receptive, wider reading public. The feedback loop between academic criticism and serious feuilleton in major newspapers and magazines, while not necessarily close(d), is certainly tighter in Europe than in the U.S. market where avant-garde writers often go unnoticed or are seen as inhabiting a literary underground divorced from mainstream cultural concerns. Figures like Gaddis, Bukowski, Ronald Sukenick, and of course Federman, among others, are virtually unknown to large segments of the American reading public and, barring occasional exceptions, shunned by major publishing houses. In Germany, by contrast, they enjoy a reputation as being among the cutting-edge forces in postmodern American literature and have seen considerable success with well-established presses that go well beyond narrow niche markets and academic literati. Significantly, while My Body in Nine Parts has, to date, not been published in Germany, it first appeared in France as Mon corps en neuf parties. Unlike in its English translation, where corps is rendered simply as Body, the original French plays on the double meaning that is central to the allegorical surcharge of the entire book: a live body and a dead body - a corpse. Let’s exhume and resurrect the body of work of a writer who should be known to a larger segment of the living!

Works Cited

Amerika, Mark. “Triptych: Hypertext, Surfiction, Storyworlds.” (14 August 2006).

Bernstein, Charles. “The LINEBreak Interview.” Journal of Experimental Fiction 23 (2002): 69-78.

Caramello, Charles. Silverless Mirrors. Book, Self & Postmodern American Fiction. Tallahassee: Florida State Univ. Press, 1983.

Federman, Raymond. My Body in Nine Parts. Buffalo, NY: Stacherone P, 2005.

— . Ed. Surfiction. Fiction Now & Tomorrow. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975.

— . “Federman” (11 August 2006).

— . “The Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jewish Writer” (11 August 2006).

— . “A Voice Within A Voice” (11 August 2006).

— . “The Word-Being Talks. An Interview with Ray Federman.” With Mark Amerika (11 August 2006); rpt. Journal of Experimental Fiction, 23: 417-23.

Gaddis, William. Agapē Agape. Afterword Joseph Tabbi. New York: Viking, 2002.

Pelton, Theodore. “The Federman Haircut,” Journal of Experimental Fiction 23 (2002): 356-62.

Rossum, Walter van. “Am Ende war Geschwätz der Anfang: Rudernde Stimme Ohne Auftrag” (20 June 2003).

— . “Lange Nacht” (20 June 2003).