#AuthorFail 4: Jeffrey DeShell

It’s Monday morning. The yawning gulf of your workweek stretches before you like a festering baby mouth. How long until the cold monotony of this unmatched abyss becomes heated, for a short moment, by the weekly report known in your heart of hearts as #AuthorFail?

Ho! The time for failure, my cubicle-bound friend, is now.

In this edition, Jeffrey DeShell’s entire career stands as one long flatline. He ignores the initial call (you too, may participate) to write about one specific failure–and so expands into the existential depths of Sartrean gloom, Keirkegaardian trembling, and Kafkaesque comedy. Yes, such writers are a sad and surly lot…yet we love them all the same.

For me, the concepts of failure and success slide easily into one another.  When I publish a novel, when I hold it in my hand, touch the cover, turn the pages, I feel like the object is both a success (in that it’s finally an object, existing in the world) and, inevitably, simultaneously, a failure.  The feeling of failure is real, oppressive, discouraging.

The novel as object marks, to me, a failure of possibilities.  The book is the (grave) marker of infinite options narrowed and drained into a shadow.  A shadow of what it could have been, yes, as all the choices taken, restricted and created by language in the translation from the perfect and luminous image/story in my mind to the (oft) mistaken and imprecise sentences now fixed on the page certainly marks a type of failure.  I once possessed something ineffable and beautiful, something I could only approach by writing.  But by writing, I destroyed that perfect image/story.  And so writing becomes the impossibility of communication; an impossibility that ruins the original image/story.  If writing communicates, it communicates only that impossibility. Continue reading

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(In/Un)troducing Raymond Federman

If you have not encountered the work of the recently departed Raymond Federman (1928-2009) through his countless novels, poems, short pieces, surfictions, critifictions, and literary provocations, you haven’t really read, or unread, as the case may be.

First step: find a copy of Double of Nothing: a real fictitious discourse (1971)—Federman’s debut. It’s a furious meta-fictional / typographical adventure. It’s cerebral, but with heart. Spend two minutes browsing through the text on Google books; the noodle novel will blow your mind.

From there, pick up any of Federman’s numerous texts, an entire corpus un/writing the autobiography of a well-known story: Federman, as a child, pushed into a closet by his mother as collaborationist French police take his parents and two sisters for eventual transport to Auschwitz. The young boy works in a southern French farm, in hiding, during the rest of the war and eventually makes his way to America, to the army, to a Ph.D, to a friendly relationship with his great mentor Samuel Beckett, and, over a series of books—never from a mainstream press—through the gulf of memory and un/telleable stories of loss and of laughter, always laughter.

Continue reading