ABR remembers Federman, Starcherone to publish "Shhh"
The November/December 2009 issue of American Book Review features a special tribute section to the late Raymond Federman, the avant garde fiction writer, critic and longtime professor of Modern languages and Literatures at the University at Buffalo who died on October 6th in San Diego.
"Remembering Raymond Federman" isn't available online, so you might want to use it as a convenient excuse to visit your favorite local independent bookseller during this holiday season. In it you'll find personal reminiscences by some 19 writers, including Geoffrey Gatza and Ted Pelton, two Buffalo-based independent editor/publishers of Federman's later work, as well as an excerpt from Shhh: The Story of a Childhood, Federman's final book which will be published by Pelton's Starcherone Books in April of 2010. (Starcherone, incidentally, with the support and encouragement of the late writer's family, has also established The Raymond Federman Memorial Fund for Innovative Fiction to subsidize select publications which advance the spirit of Federman's inimitable work.)
In his "Page 2" essay "Post-Federman," ABR editor and publisher Jeffrey R. Di Leo lauds Federman--a contributing editor to ABR since its 1977 inception--as more relevant today than at any point in his four decade long career. As a writer first associated with the generation of postmodern writers of "metafiction" (Donald Barthelme, Robert Coover, and ABR founder Ron Sukenick among them) who came to prominence in the late 1960's, Federman's work later came to be associated with enough of today's "critical discourses" to populate an entire faculty of Arts and Letters at some leading contemporary university.
For the record, Di Leo enumerates the different fields Federman's writing bears some relevance to: everything from autobiography studies, Beckett studies, and critical theory to translation theory, trauma studies, and literature of the Holocaust. As he notes, "Federman's emphasis on voice over character, his playfulness with identity, his use of numerous alter egos, and his investigation of writing in the shadow of the Holocaust make his work a rich source for those invested in contemporary cultural studies and literary theory."
Di Leo's final two paragraphs make the case for Federman's legacy for generations of readers and critics to come:
Today, however, in a critical climate that is highly eclectic and globally situated, Federman's work is probably more powerful than ever. Why? Because like Federman, , contemporary critics are less concerned with distinguishing "literature" from "theory" and "fiction" from "reality," and more interested in discussing the identity, consumption, regulation, and production of texts within culture(s). Theory and criticism have finally caught up with Federman and his self-reflexive fiction.
...Federman's own approach to fiction and criticism might best be viewed as "post-theoretical" or "post-fictional" Neither he nor his writing can be contained by any one discipline or discourse. Federman's work continually has a way of sliding quickly into other areas of critical concern just at the point when one feels as though one has captured it. Federman is--and is not--a theorist. Is--and is not--a fictionalist. Is--and is not--a philosopher of language. Federman's writing is at home both within the context of contemporary theory and against it--both with the frame of fictionality and against it. As such, in many ways, he is our premier "post-theorist" and "post-fictionalist"...
Di Leo's book Federman's Fictions: Innovation, Theory, and the Holocaust, from which his essay is adapted, will be published in the fall of 2010 by the State University of New York Press.