January 14, 2009



A former student of mine -- Chuck Richardson -- who took several of my creative writing courses at SUNY-Buffalo wrote an amazing piece about The Carcasses. Back then Chuck proved to be a fine young writer. He's publishing his first novel. We exchanged a few emails, and I sent him The Carcasses -- several sections of that book in progress already appear on the blog -- so visitors of the Federman blog will know what this very perceptive reading of that book refers to.

I'm getting better here -- stronger every day -- started writing again and even playing golf.


Dear Raymond,

I’m deeply honored that you shared this. I’m sorry it took a little while to respond. I was a bit worried you sent me something that would render me speechless, but you’re writing something that puts my head in its favorite place. And I can say things from there even if they’re nonsense. So here goes some nonsense.

The first relative thing I thought of while reading was The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Book of Natural Salvation, which I prefer [Huston Smith translation], and Kafka’s Parables and Paradoxes and some of his other short work [I wrote something about K.’s short work that Mauro Nevi posted on The Kafka Project. I’m not a scholar or expert, I just love Kafka]. Both of those works have made huge impressions on me.

What cemented the Tibetan connection in my mind was when you write “…it must be terrible to come back to life…and live each time with the fear of death.” The detachment sought by Tibetan Buddhists to achieve natural salvation in harmony with the wheel of life seems akin to the narrator’s search in Carcasses [which, for some reason, I keep pronouncing “caucuses” in my head]. There’s a part in the Tibetan book where the soul, moments before it enters the womb, begs the man and woman to stop copulating because it so dreads a return to life on Earth.

Also, the authorities seem somewhat akin to the Buddhist gods [manifestations of personal desire…though now I think I’m going astray a bit] that represent aspects of the human soul [whatever that is—it doesn’t seem to be mind, matter or energy, or even a combination thereof, the way you’re dealing with it, but something else elsewhere, an “I/eye” beyond language].

And for some reason, on page 3 I couldn’t help thinking about “The Law.” There’s something about Kafka’s approach to [] in The Law that seems a counterweight to what’s going on here. I can’t put my finger on it yet, though. I also couldn’t stop thinking of A Report for an AcademyIn The Penal Colony. The work seems to be creating an expectation for some sort of testimony in a trial about a cosmic torture mechanism that fatally tattoos prisoners of the flesh/mind/energy.

Somewhere in this psychological seam between the Tibetan Book of Natural Salvation and Kafka [of course, this is the way I’m reading it, I won’t guess what your intentions were/are] the question is asked on p. 10 “why can’t I choose what I’m going to be?” Normally I’d scream out “karma” as an answer, but you’re getting into the karma of karma [Meta-karma?] and I’m waiting to see what you do with it.

And the narrator seems to have fnacs dancing around Satan’s rebellious role in Heaven by calling for a democratic transmutation of the dead—politicizing metamorphosis, the apparent essence of nature itself. There’s a rebellion against karma and nature as well as paradise that, upon some thought, seems absented from the text. The narrator, perhaps seeking a change in the cosmic process enveloping him, still seems rather sanguine about everything, as if it humors “him,” but that’s not all, “he” doesn’t really find it all that amusing, I think. I anticipate that hole, what the narrator is not amused about, perhaps getting bigger, or just the right size, attaining its own balance or imbalance or not [I’m also thinking this second how karma, nature and paradise are three different things; how Jaffe says “find a seam, plant a mine and slip away;” how Acker wanted to “explode the duality;” Federman is expanding/exploding duality into a tri-ality, finding a seam among [not between] karma [indefinable], nature [indefinable]and paradise [the same], fostering an emergency that might be described as a triaxial esemplasy [an expansion of Barth’s co-axial esemplasy…your play gives me psychologorrhea][sic].

At the same time, when this word-being asks why she can’t choose what she’s going to be, a quote from Bukowski pops to mind: “I never met another man I’d rather be.” This striving and longing to be something other than what we are seems futile. The fact too many seem forced to be something they’re not appears unjust. Yet futile injustice seems to be what is—what seams—from a human perspective. So you go beyond that, pointing where we need to go, pointing to that mystery we are strangely attracted to throughout our phase space trajectories toward that black hole at the center of our Existence, a seaming recursive symmetry across scale and aspect.

This is not a human-centered text, it’s not even biocentric, since there’s a likelihood at some point in our eternities we’re going to come back as a piss pot. I appreciate the flexible topology, the permeability of self, the apparent possibility of some future enlightenment/escape from the karma…in the end these feelings are all irrelevant, so much freedom that freedom’s meaningless. Yet we care…what does that mean?

On p. 22 I also started thinking of Camus’ The Rebel, basically about the way rebels have no idea what to do once they’re in power, other than take control of the existing mechanisms for its administration, finding themselves in the end only corrupted by and addicted to the apparatus/mechanism/system they sought to manipulate to their advantage. The main thing is, from my point, is the shift in psyche, an end to our crisis of perception, or the further evolution of it into evermore life-full experiences. I don't know. But that's a minor point, this common view of the rebel that unlike most common perceptions seems uncommonly accurate, at least from my experience. What is the actual recursion between these functions? I wonder.

I know this is a rough draft and there were a few typos. Perhaps these were typos or not, and I’m pretty sure they’re on or right around p. 3, you type “Wall-Mart” and “dinning table.” Each are better spellings, in my opinion, than what the dictionary offers, for whatever that’s worth. I like happy accidents in my own work. In fact, all the stuff I enjoy most is a happy accident.

Finally, I’d say I see mind, matter and energy seeking to sustain their inter-related disequilibria for as long as possible [an unsentimental journey with a dash of Calvino’s “lightness,” perhaps?].

Again, I’m very honored and I hope I haven’t said too much or made an ass of myself [though I’m rather used to both]. When I’m working on things I like to hear what a reader's reading contrasted with what I think I'm writing. And I also don’t like hearing too much. Hope I kept this short enough. I apologize for the sloppy somewhat incoherent remarks but they come from a reading in progress.

Can’t wait to see more Carcasses [I sound like Idi Amin!]--can’t wait to see how this fable works itself out [just occurs to me I said nothing about fables or the fabulous...]

Peace & Cheers,

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