August 09, 2005
First let me explain my present state of mind [let’s forget the body for a moment] – when Federman approaches what appears to be the end of the book he's been writing and rewriting and rewriting for a couple of years now – or maybe more – he panics – he trembles -- he gets into what is commonly known as the blues at the end of the book -- it's hard you know to let go -- to turn the book loose and watch what happens to it when it is rejected– or accepted – but for the wrong reasons -- you understand that -- and then comes that terrible void that follows the end of the book and its departure – to endure the humiliation of being ignored rejected accused banned exploited negated shredded burned – out there in the real world –
And you want me to write to the British publishers asking them if they would like to consider the novel I just finished – The Farm –
But suppose – as you are urging me – I write such a letter of inquiry to all the fine British publishers in the long list of names you sent me – yes suppose I write such a letter –
Dear Mister Fine Publisher,
I am Raymond Federman – world-renowned author - - except in the United Kingdom and in North America – and Africa – I have written many books in French and English and even translated some of my own books from one language to the other -- novels – poetry -- plays – essays – even criticism -- critifiction – self-translations -- self-playgiarism – and other unknown genres -- I’ve been translated – legally and illegally – into many unreadable languages - - etc. etc. – and I have just finished a new novel called THE FARM -- and I was wondering if you might be interested to consider it for publication in your fine publishing house –
For more information about my fame and my work consult my website -- http://www.federman.com/ – or the blog http://www.raymondfederman.blogspot.com/ -- or do an extensive search on google by simply typing federman raymond – you need not capitalize -- and you’ll be amazed how many thousands of references you will find – more than 5000 -- and the number is growing every day – grab me while you can ....
Yours humbly & respectfully,
better known as Moinous
Can you visualize the look on the fine publisher's face after he reads this and discovers everything there is to be known about Federman on the Internet –
This is what the fine publisher would write back to Federman –
We are wondering why you, an American writer as well as a French writer would want to seek publication of your books in the U.K.? You write American language, stay in America.
Moreover, we notice that in America your books are published by not so distinguished publishing houses. Small insignificant presses. We deduce from this that your books must not sell very well.
Therefore, we feel that we are not the right house for your work.
Thank you for you inquiry.
Lloyd of England
And as the fine publisher licks the envelope with his rejection letter -- he mumbles who the fuck does this Federman guy think he is -- who wants to publish his fucked up memories -- his playgiarism – his critifiction -- his madness -- his filth – and it’s not even written in good English – the gall to approach us with his garbage --
So -- okay – I write all these letters – as you urge me dear A... – and all the fine British publishers want me to send in a SYNOPSIS of the book – I panic –
I have never been able to write a synopsis of any of my books -- each time I tried I rewrote the entire book -- my stories cannot be reduced to a couple of paragraphs – they go on forever – so that a synopsis would reduce the book to a straight line – how I can I explain in a synopsis the deviations of my book – the digressions – the self-reflexiveness – how I got from there to there – with all the detours – how I got from the first word to the last word – from the opening paragraph to the last paragraph –
Maybe that’s what I should send – the first and last paragraphs – that should tell everything about the book – Yes, that’s what a synopsis should be – only the beginning and the end -- but no middle –
Synopsis of The Farm
Yes, of course we are driving. We love the narrow French roads bordered by sweeping arches of tall ancient trees. And yes, we are going to try to find the farm where I slaved when I was a kid during the war.
– Then, one of these days we’ll have to go back to the farm and take more pictures.
– Yes. So much there that has not yet been told. I wonder what happened to Marguerite.
– She died. Like all the others, I suppose.
– Are you disappointed?
– I don’t know. I’ll have to see how it comes out when I write the book.
It’s all there -- the whole story is there -- the narrator the characters the setting the plot – the shape of the book –
The narrator and his wife are driving on narrow french roads bordered with history towards the farm where the protagonist slaved when he was a boy during the war.
They find the farm, take pictures, and tell what they saw. But realize later they didn’t look carefully enough. Didn’t take enough pictures. So the story is unfinished. There is more to tell. More to see.
What happened to all the characters in the novel after they were abandoned by the author. Did they all die? Obviously that first visit to the farm was a disappointment. But perhaps when the narrator gets home and writes the story of the journey to the farm he can improve it, and even finish it.
But the fine publisher is not satisfied -- he wants to know more – he writes back asking for more precision -- and so another exchange of costly faxes and letters and packages –
The Farm -- [another synopsis]
The story of a 13-year-old boy who during World War Two escaped deportation to the death camps and worked hard like a slave on a farm in Southern France where he suffered a great deal except for the pleasant moments when in the evening the young and sexy farm woman visited his cock at the end he grows up and goes on with life and becomes a famous writer etc.
Or to put it more succinctly: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Knee Deep in Manure.
What else can be said -- if I start talking about the twisted narrative shape or about the bilingual aspect of the text or about the self-reflexiveness or about the roughness of the language or about the digressiveness or about the scatological aspect of the story or about the poetic side of the writing or about the distorted chronology – and if I mention the tone the rhythm of the phrases – the form of the novel in other words -- for sure the fine publishers will say -- not another one of those abnormal novels that nobody wants to read –
You see what I'm facing if I write to the fine British publishers begging them to publish my book –
But let’s assume I write these letters -- how many of these fine publishers will respond -- probably none -- and I would be waiting months after months hoping that one letter -- just one letter of acceptance or rejection -- would arrive before I finish writing the next book –
Besides publishers don’t like to receive what is known in the business as unsolicited material -- or to put it differently unwanted stuff -- and me I wait and wait and wait hoping that at least one of these fine publishers will write and say okay federman send the manuscript –
And so I send the manuscript –
And then comes that great period of depression caught between hope and despair waiting for the decision of the fine publisher -- already anticipating the words rejection – feeling sick at the thought that your beautiful story which cost you so many sleepless nights is being read by antagonistic eyes – and then comes the letter of rejection –
To give you an idea – here are excerpts from previous letters of rejection – that go as far back in time as when I was peddling my first novel – Double or Nothing – which was rejected by 27 publishers –
we find this book too complicated for our readers
we think they are too many fucks in this book
we wouldn’t be able to sell more than 12 copies of this book
we cannot take a risk with such a postmodern novel
we could face a lawsuit with this book
we find this book totally unreadable
we find this book too narrow in scope
we think the characters need fleshing out
we think this book could use a good rewriting – it’s too short
we are tired of publishing books about the holocaust
we are looking for books that teach people how to improve their lives
we think your book would make the readers suffer
we think your book needs a happy ending
we think nobody gives a shit about the life of farmers in Southern France
we love the subject of your book but at the present time the relations between England and France being what they are we feel that your book would not receive favorable attention with the British readers
And there is more --
Do you know what kind of letter of rejection I would get from Gaston – remember -- Gaston the editor in La fourrure de ma Tante Rachel who rejected the noodle novels – do you know what kind of rejection letter I would get from him if I were to submit The Farm to les éditions de l’Amour Fou?
This is what Gaston would write :
Though we recognize your talent as a story-teller, and appreciate the humor and the style of your writing, we cannot take a risk with this book because we cannot determine in which category of books it should be marketed. It does not appear to be a novel since the main characters are in fact yourself and your wife. And yet it cannot be classified as an autobiography since there are so many fictional elements in it. Nor could it be considered a travelogue because of the lack of geographical precision. Moreover we cannot consider it as work of history because of the dubious historical references. We doubt that even though the language is at time poetic we could present this book as a long poem. Madame Trucmuche and I discussed the potential marketability of The Farm in terms of its usefulness to farmers but rejected this idea since most farmers are still illiterate in the provinces. The only alternative would be to have you rewrite the book from the point of view of the old man in the language of the old man, we might then consider this book as a manual of french slang but that would mean rewriting this book in French since that is the language of the old man. Finally we feel that this book in comparison with the other book you submitted to us which unfortunately we did not accept because of its obsession with noodles that this one is not postmodern enough. In fact that is really the primary reason that we are returning your manuscript to you. We feel that The Farm is too traditional and too realistic. That it is on your part a retreat from the experimental work you have done so courageously until now without ever compromising your work. In this sense The Farm may appear to your readers as a regression. As a failure.
Gaston Le Myope
P.S. We forgot to mention that another reason for not taking the risk with this book is its obvious lack of respect on the part of the author for his native country and its inhabitants.
From my sad and pathetic experience with publishers I also know that they do not like to be approached directly by authors -- why -- because they know authors are smarter than they are –
What they want is an intermediary -- the agent -- the dumb literary agent who failed his MFA in Creative Writing at Iowa University and had no other choice but to become a parasite of the publishing industry –
But no agent wants to take on the novels of federman – he has tried repeatedly to be accepted by one of those sexy literary agents in Nouillorque – no luck –
I love your book says languidly on the phone the sexy literary agent from Nouillorque with a name like Stephanie or Veronica or Beverly or Sophie – I love your book – it’s very funny – sexy funny -- but I doubt it will make it commercially – at most you might get a $25 advance for it if I were to sell it -- and my 25% commission would barely buy me a glass of Chardonnay – I wish you good luck - have you considered another profession –
In fact Veronica even offered me a job in her literary agency – but most of them sexy agents tell you more directly what they think of your book –
this book is a disaster in waiting
this book is too intelligent to envisage reviews
this book is too scatological for the common reader
most bookstores have stopped selling works of literature
maybe you should consider going into the business of T-shirts
bookstores do very well with T-shirts
and so on
So you see I cannot approach these fine British publishers directly because I would burst into laughter while writing the letter of inquiry -- no I cannot take myself seriously about the book industry
So it goes !
Here another approach – look at the letter I wrote yesterday to the poetry editor of the New Yorker to whom I submitted my poetic invitation from the Cacademy of American Poets -- yes, to The New Yorker -- I decided to take a chance --
Dear Poetry Editor,
I thought you might be interested to publish this poetic reflection concerning the invitation I received to become an Associate Member of the Academy of American Poets.
I believe the sophisticated readers of The New Yorker, of which I am one, will enjoy this poetic reflection concerning the Academy of American Poets.
I look forward to your favorable reaction.
author of Loose Shoes and many other books
AN INVITATION FROM THE CACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS
I was officially invited today, in a letter signed by the Chancellor of the Cacademy of American Poets, to become an Ass-
Not a Full Member! Just an Ass-
ociate member [hyphenated like that at the end of a line].
Associate Member! Does that mean that I am an Ass for not having already joined the Cacademy of American Poets?
Am I not an American? And am I not a Poet? So I claim. Ok, a naturalized American, and a peddler of words.
But Associate Member? Does that mean that I will be like a Junior Member of the Cacademy with the potential of becoming a Full Member eventually?
Or does it simply mean that in my present position as a Poet among American Poets I am Associated to poetry only partially?
Or could it be that the Chancellor of the Cacademy thinks I am not ready yet to become a Full Member because I have not yet been recognized fully as a Poet in America?
Or could it imply that because I am not yet fully recognized as a Poet in America, I can only be an Associate Member?
But the questions to ask, as I ponder whether or not to accept this invitation: How did the Cacademy of American Poets recognize that I am a poet? On what basis? And why does it find me worthy of becoming an Associate Member of the Cacademy?
I have never published a book of poems in America.
I have published 10 volumes of poems in Europe, but none in America. And nobody in America knows about these 10 volumes of poetry.
Three bilingual recueils in France, and seven bilingual or trilingual volumes in Germany.
I have published many poems in magazines in America, and on the internet, and dropped many of them at street corners, but no one ever paid much attention to them.
I never had a poem appear in The New Yorker. But I do have many friendly and encouraging rejections slips from The New Yorker.
Unless suddenly there is an immense interest in my poetry, of which I am not aware, that would explain why the Cacademy is anxious to have me as an Associate Member.
But all these poems I dispersed in America must not have been recognized as poems since none found its way into an anthology of American Poetry, and will probably never find its way into that great Pantheon of Poetry The Norton Anthology of American Poetry from 1796 to 2036. 2036, the year I am due back on my planet.
What shall I do? Accept this invitation, or write a letter telling the Chancellor that I feel I am not ready and worthy to become an Associate Member of the Cacademy of American Poets because I have not yet written my one great poem.
Oh I forgot to mention. To join the Cacademy of American Poets one must pay an entry fee.
And depending which place, or which seat, or rank one aspires to inside the Cacademy, one must decide how much one wants to invest to get in.
$25 – Contributing Members. Probably those who are not yet considered Poets, but have the potential of becoming Poets.
$45 – Associate Members. I am delighted to see that I have skipped the Contributing Member rank and been promoted to the Associate Member Rank. This must mean that I am somewhat recognized as a poet beyond his potential.
$100 -- Sustaining Members. That must be for older poets who can no longer sustain themselves as Poets and need the security of the Cacademy. Even though on recent occasions I’ve been called old fart, I do not consider myself ready for the Sustaining Rank.
$250 -- Patron Members. Obviously for those who would like to become the bosses of Poetry and set the Rules of Prosody. The ambivalence of this rank is that the Patron Members face the risk of being demoted to the rank of Sustaining Members should their stocks in Prosody go down.
$1000 – Benefactor Members. Clearly the rank of those who are on the verge of changing tense, and are considering whether or not to exclude the Cacademy from their Poetic Testaments.
$2500 -- the Chairman’s Circle Members. These Members not only get all the benefits listed above, but upon admission receive a limited-edition broadside of the Chancellor’s best poem signed and dated by the Chancellor of the Cacademy himself.
These are the options for admission into the Cacademy of American Poets.
Had I been invited to join as a Member of the Chairman’s Circle, I would perhaps have accepted immediately, just to be able to sit at the Chairman’s table in the circle of the great Poets of America, and drink with them the expensive French wines Poets of the Cacademy always drink.
I would gladly have shelled out 25 grand to be in the Chairman’s Circle.
But to be asked to join as an Associate Member for $45, that’s insulting.
What would I get for 45 bucks as an Associate Member of the Cacademy of American Poets?
A glass of Perrier!
My decision is final. I shall decline this invitation. Even if it means that my poems will never find their way into The Enlarged Norton Anthology of American Poetry from 1796 to 2036. The year I will climb Mount Olympus.
Here are the titles of the 10 volumes of poems.
Parmi les monstres / Among the Beasts
Future Concentration / Future Concentration
Ici & Ailleurs / Here & Elsewhere
Spieltexte / Playtexts
Nun Den / Now Then
Duel- / Duel /
99 Handwritten Poems / 99 pommes-faits-à-la-main
Offence Schuhe / Loose Shoes
L’Extatique de Jule & Juliette
Die Stimme im Schrank / The Voice in the Closet / la voix dans le cabinet de Débarras
Well now you know how I feel about having finished another novel -- 0h well -- the next one is already in progress –
Meanwhile out of despair I started composing a letter to one of the Fine British Publishers and in the middle I burst into sad laughter –
I cannot write that kind of submissive letter -- federman does not know how to sell himself -- federman does not get down on his knees to beg a publisher to publish him –
This morning I got this message from Richard Grossman to whom I had sent my Reflections on the Future of The Farm –
I happened to speak with a sympathetic literary agent, whom I didn't know but was recommended to me by a cousin who runs a press...to front my newest project.
I told her I had written a send-up of Basho, that I had walked from Torrance to Malibu taking photos. I had composed a travelogue and accompanying haiku. Grossman's Trip to the Far North.
Her peeved response (at the end of my few meager sentences):
I don't do illustrated books. I only do literary fiction.
God Bless America. (I hate this fucking world.)
P.S. I can't join the Poetry Society, incidentally. I have no utterance.
My first agent died immediately after he read my first novel.
My second agent abandoned his wife and children and took off with a gorgeous Texas cowgirl and forgot to pay me the dough he owed me for selling one of my novels – - I think it was $25.
My third agent couldn’t read English.
My fourth agent left her husband and married her best friend Ursula.
My present agent is Erica. Erica not only sleeps with me cooks for me loves me plays golf and tennis with me and travels with me. She's been doing that for 42 years, but she has been able to sell my work only in Germany. That’s because she’s fluent in German.
Don't give up.
Another letter came from an American publisher who got a synopsis of The Farm sent to him by a friend. That synopsis was written by another friend. All my friends love me and want me to be rich and famous --
We are in receipt of the synopsis regarding your novel, The Farm. Unfortunately, we seldom publish agricultural books irregardless of their content. We were very impressed by your resume and believe that with a little patience, some more work to find your voice, and a bit of attention to structure and grammar, you will accomplish all that you desire. As for some recommendations for The Farm, we recommend you contact @g Worldwide. It is a new concept in agricultural news coverage. They are attempting to build a service with three-way interaction -- involving conventional publishers, correspondents from a variety of agricultural institutions and from farmers and ranchers themselves. They welcome correspondents from the media, agribusiness, academia, and other parts of agriculture to be reporters. Perhaps, there's where your future lies buried. Once again, we are sorry we cannot be of assistance, but wish you a marvelous writing future.
I.M. Fashtoonkina [The Mortadella Press]
Dear Mister Fashkimona,
Will you give me permission to use your letter as a blurb for The Farm. That would assure us of a big sale in Nebraska and Iowa.
Gratefully yours, Moinous
Author of Loose Shoes and many other books
see http://www.raymondfederman.blogspot.com/ etc.
Dear Mr. Mawnoose,
In order to use that letter you'll have to talk to my agent, Morrie Kutzyurbalzoff. He is a major L.A. agent who wears sunglasses and drives a Porsche convertible. Lotsa' babes with him. Heavily into porno films. If you try to use it without getting a release from Morrie, I'm afraid I'll have to sue you. But that's the publishing business. And it's Fashtinkina not Fashkimona.
Secretary of Mister Fashtinkina
Dear Susie Petitcon,
Can I have Morrie's phone number? or do you prefer to contact him yourself on behalf of this farmer.
Dear Mr. Far merman,
The agent's number is unlisted. However, you can find him in your local white pages.
Secretary of Mister Fashtinkina
Here's a letter from Ace this morning --
good idea! send La F to "agribusiness" publishers!!!!
a rare delite etc
There are so many ways to reject a novel
are so many ways to say the same thing
so many ways to compose a rejection letter
somebody should write a doctoral dissertation on that subject
the study of the style tone syntax vocabulary intention of rejection letters
this would be very useful and very relevant to the history of literature
letters of rejections all have a different approach but all say the same thing
there are the letters written by those who know that perhaps they are making a mistake in rejecting this book but .... and so they are apologetic
and there are the letters written by those who didn't understand a damn thing and therefore try to explain what they have failed to understand
and there are the letters written by those who didnt even bother to read the book but just flipped a few pages and write a flippant sentence to show their superiority
and there are the letters written by those who know the author personally and even know his work and therefore can only say sorry without any further explanation sorry for knowing you
and there are the letters written by those who go on and on whining about the present unmarketability of fiction and their poverty and how one should feel sorry for them
well this is the one I got today from Mitchell J. Hamilburg of the Mitchell J. Hamilburg Agency in Los Angeles who was enthusiastic about reading The Farm when I first contacted him
I'm very grateful for this opportunity to see The Farm. I really like it a lot and believe it will be published. [it would have been interesting, and perhaps even useful if Mitch at this point would have said why he loved the book and where he thinks it could be published]
Alas [well I like Alas better than just But], the difficulties of the fiction market [and now we have it – the pathetic predictable mercantile aspect of publishing] gets the better of me these days [poor Mitch -- maybe we could try to console him by writing a nice piece of shit] and even with books that I like [one is tempted to ask Mitch what kind of books he likes], I have a hard time placing them [maybe Mitch would have an easier time selling shoes or salamis in a delicatessen]. Even with the positive views that I did have for The Farm [Mitch could you please clarify what these positive views are so maybe I can feel good about them], I just didn't feel confident enough overall as to that right spot to suggest the possibility of getting together on it [perhaps Mitch should take a composition course to learn to write a decent readable English sentence before undertaking to peddle literature]. I just do know how many times that I have been off in the past and another will believe the opposite and set it right away [damn I wish Mitch had sent me this letter before I sent him The Farm -- I would have written him a warm decent rejection letter. Telling him that I didn't think he was the right agent for this book. I have no idea how such illiterate people become literary agents].
Thanks, again, and best to you for every success with The Farm. [I have no idea what that again is doing here, but I am deeply touched by Mitch's good wishes.]
Now we await the next episode of this melodrama.