Monday, December 21, 2009

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 5 (Raymond Federman)

Federman, Raymond
My Body In Nine Parts


Given to me by Geoffrey Gatza, who published the book on Blazevox books, after a tribute reading to the author last year. (Correction: the book was published by Starcherone Books in Buffalo. Thanks to Geoff for pointing it out).

Raymond Federman passed away this fall. He taught in Buffalo for decades. I only ever met him one time. It was when I first started working at Just Buffalo. Ted Pearson, my predecessor on the job, had organized a series of readings before he left that I took over. One of the readings in the first series was by Federman and Leslie Fiedler. I don't think Fiedler lived much longer after that. It was also the only time I ever met him.

My clearest memory is of Federman reading a story about a character named "Federman." His narrator never used pronouns, so every sentence ran something like this: Federman trips on the curb and falls down. Federman, why are you so clumsy, Federman asks himself...and so on. Now imagine a silver-haired, puckish figure with a heavy French accent and you can get an idea of the comic effect of all this. It was one of the funnier readings I've seen.

from My Body In Nine Parts

As for the big toe, well that's another store. That one is tough. Tough and arrogant. He's a loner. He thinks he is superior just because he is bigger than the others. Not because he is more beautiful, or has a better shape, on the contrary, he's ugly as hell, deformed and puffy. Bigness is his thing. So, he bitches all the time when I cut his nail, which always grows longer than the other nails. That big toe irritates me. He mocks me. He curses me, uses obscene language, when I hold him tight with two fingers to clip his ugly nail. That big toe has a nail as ugly as the toe. Impossible to describe the ugliness of that nail. It has no definite shape or texture. The only thing one can say about it is that it has an obnoxious color, yellowish like a rotten egg. Last night, as I was approaching that big toe with my favorite nail-clippers, he said to me, in a very sneering argumentative voice, Federman why the fuck don't you buy yourself a better Bistoquet? The piece of shit you're using hurts me.

That's exactly what he said. And he used the French word, Bistoquet.

By the way, all my toes are bilingual, like me.

1 comment:

RD Pohl said...

Remarkable book. Federman at his most Beckett-esque exploring/inventing the terrain of his own aging body with Rabelaisian or Sterne-like tragicomedic digressions. This is a book that reminds you that not matter how self-reflexive metafiction gets, it never loses its connection to the human body. A late but essential addition to the Federman oeuvre. I can relate to your confusion, Mike, as both Starcherone and BlazeVox have been important publishers of Federman's later works, and I can never keep them straight myself.