Take It or Leave It

Take It or Leave It

by Raymond Federman

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Take It or Leave It by Raymond Federman

As told, or rather retold second-hand, by the narrator, Take It or Leave It relates the hilarious and amorous adventures of a young Frenchman who has been drafted into the U.S. Army and is being shipped Overseas to fight in Korea. The obsessed narrator retells, as best as he can, what the young man supposedly told him as they sat under a tree. He recounts how the young man escaped German persecution during World War Two, how he came to America and struggled to survive before joining the "rah rah spitshine" 82nd Airborne Division, and how, because of a "typical Army goof," he must travel in an old beat-up Buick Special from Fort Bragg to Camp Drum to collect the money the Army owes him, before he can set out for "the great journey cross-country" to San Francisco where he will embark for Overseas.

Moving freely from past to present (and Vice Versa), and from place to place leap-frogging from digression to digression, Take It or Leave It explores new possibilities of narrative technique. Whie the story of Frenchy is being told, the narrator involves his listeners in digressive arguments about politics, sex, America, literature, laughter, death, and the telling of the story itself. Consequently, as this "exaggerated second-hand tale to be read aloud either standing or sitting" progresses, it also deviates from its course, and eventually cancels itself as the voices of the fiction multiply. Take It or Leave It, the ultimate postmodern novel, makes a shamble of traditional fiction and conventional modes of writing, and does so with effrontery and laughter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573668378
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 05/03/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 456
File size: 52 MB
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Read an Excerpt

Take It or Leave It

An Exaggerated Second-Hand Tale to be Read Aloud Either Standing or Sitting

By Raymond Federman

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1976 Raymond Federman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57366-837-8


On the Road (not Taken) with Federman's Take It or Leave It

There are MANY ways in which the thing I am trying to say may be tried in vain to be said. — TIOLI

I want to write a foreword that cancels itself as it goes. — Larry McCaffery

One could imagine that it happened this way:

Once upon a time an exasperated critic looked down at what he hoped would assist him to finally complete work on the foreword he'd agreed to provide for FC2 for their 20th anniversary re-issue of Raymond Federman's Take It or Leave It [hereafter: TIOLI] a very wild, innovative novel which some reviews had dismissed as being incoherent and unreadable but which the critic had greatly admired and which had even influenced (or infected) his own writing (indeed, symptoms of this influence were impeding progress on this very foreword). The assistance he hoped to find was in the form of the following list of predictable topics, sentences, paragraphs, and other materials which doubtless would have been included in his foreword were the book for which it was written itself less predictable but which the critic had immediately rejected as being inappropriate for a book as radically and willfully Unpredictable as TIOLI.

DOWN THE DRAIN: List of Topics To Be Not Discussed in My Foreword to TIOLI:

1. [DEFINITELY OMIT!] Attention- grabbing, one-two sentence combination that softens up readers' underbelly and sets up later knock-out — the kind that might have begun something like "This reissue of TIOLI — RF's brilliantly crazed version of the GREAT AMERICAN ROAD NOVEL — is a major literary event just waiting to happen, if only because it can now begin seducing, amusing, frustrating, mesmerizing, annoying and otherwise infecting the sensibilities of the younger "alternative" generation of readers with its willful incoherence and digressivenss, its playfulness and obscenity and the delirium and manic energy of its voice. While TOILI may not be RF's most radically innovative novel [NOTE: BE SURE TO ERASE THE FOLLOWING PARENTHETICAL REMARK, AND ALL SUBSEQUENT PUBLISHING INFO!) (for sustained experimentalism, nothing can quite match RF's DOUBLE OR NOTHING (Swallow; 1972) a novel in the form of 200+pages of individually designed "concrete narratives," which required nothing less of its readers than that they learn how to re-read on every page), but in terms of its range (and appropriateness) of experiments, its thematic ambition, the energy and variety of voices, the conviction of its satiric impulses, and — above all — its sheer storytelling skills, it remains the richest, most readable and most rewarding of all of RF's works." DOWN THE DRAIN.

2. Claims for TIOLI as a "landmark book," or as a "culmination" of the reflexivity, metafictional impulses, playfulness, etc. etc. found in the works of Delany, Barthelme, Abish, Bernstein, Barth [DELETE REF "ALL COLLEAGUES AT SUNY-BUFFALO"] Coover, Sukenick, Gass, and postmodernists from late 60s and early 70s. DOWN THE DRAIN — ALONG WITH: observations re: TIOLI's ongoing impact [EXTENDED ANALOGY WITH VIRAL INFECTION ALSO CANCELED] on other writers and readers being so disproportionate to its relatively modest sales. Expression of hope that TIOLI's reissue will start gaining for RF the kind of readership and critical attention in America which he already enjoys in Europe, has been receiving in Europe, particularly in Germany DOWN THE DRAIN — ALONG WITH DIGRESSION RE SOURCE OF POPULARITY IN GERMANY). [ALSO: CANCEL INFO RE: OTHER REISSUES THIS YEAR THAT SHOULD CONTRIBUTE TO THIS REASSESSMENT: The Twofold Vibration (by Sun & Moon), Double or Nothing ((FC2), or the huge (800 ms. pg.) "Recyclopedia" of materials by and about RF, edited by the critic himself, FEDERMAN, A TO X-X-X-X (SDSU Press).

3. Discussion of TIOLI as "First American Poststructuralist Novel." DOWN THE DRAIN CLARIFICATION: "... its sophisticated employment of radical concepts formulated by such leading European theorists as Lacan, Dcleuze, Guatari, Baudrillard, Foucault, Barthes, Derrida and others, such as dialogy, the death of the author, heteroglossia, carnival, decenteredness, slippage, jouissance, denial of originality, ecriture, etc., which not only anticipated analogous usage found in later words by Acker, Leyner, Wallace, Daitch, and Vollmann nearly a decade before most American readers had ever heard of Anti-Oedipus or Of Grammatology." DOWN THE DRAIN.

4. ALL RELEVANT BIO-BIBLIO INFO — birth (Paris, 1928), Nazi's, the closet, extermination of parents and sisters X-X-X-X at Auschwitz, the trains, the potatoes, the farm DOWN THE DRAIN the arrival in America (1947), the east side of Detroit, the factory, high school, "Frcnchy," the tiny rooms, jazz, black woman, the Catskills, golf, New York, the hunger, the filth, noodles, the affairs, LouLou DOWN THE DRAIN the Army, the paratroopers. Fort Bragg, the trip across country, Korea, Japan, return, the GI bill, Columbia U., the first stories, Phi Betta Kappa, grad school UCLA, Beckett thesis (Journey to Chaos), the mid-60s SUNY-BUFFALO, the Guggenheim, Paris, first poetry collection (Among the Beasts, 1967), first novel, Double or Nothing, Ronald Sukcnick, the Fiction Collective, the French novel (Amer Eldorado) rewritten (not translated) as TIOLI. DOWN THE DRAIN, the 20 pg. novel, The Voice in the Closet (1979), the 80s, The Twofold Vibration (1982), move away from blatant reflexivity and playfulness towards more silence more feeling more realistic (seeming) forms. Smiles on Washington Square (1986), translations/ adaptations and acclaim in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, the 90s Aunt Rachel's Fur (1996). DOWN THE DRAIN.

5. Influences (most important) Beckett and Celine DOWN THE DRAIN (direct influences) Ashbery, Baudelaire, Calvino, Camus, Cioran, Descartes, Diderot, Kafka, La Fontaine, Joyce, Mallarmc, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Proust, Rabelais, Racine, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Sartre, Yeats DOWN THE DRAIN (indirect influences) Blake, Cervantes, Conrad, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Mann, Pirandello, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Sterne, (people not directly influential but with whom RF feels affinities): Abish, Katz, Sukenick [ALSO CANCEL SUKENICK, FICTION COLLECTIVE DIGRESSION), Gass, Hawkes, Burroughs, Barth, Coovcr DOWN THE DRAIN [ALONG WITH DIGRESSION RE: ALL MALE LIST OF INFLUENCES]

6. Extended digression of TIOLI as many different books. DOWN THE DRAIN. Alphabetical list of literary terms, labels, analogies which could describe these books: TIOLI as a: po-mo autobiography [ALSO DELETE-parenthetical analogy with by Vonnegut, Katz, Hunter Thompson, Barth, Celine, Miller, Burroughs and to "life-story" motif]; book about America and the American Dream; deeply skeptical, often hilarious academic novel; DOWN THE DRAIN border novel; book about beginnings (birth by also being birthed into new life-story by American language); bi-lingual novel, book of borrowed time DOWN THE DRAIN critifiction; a cancellation, class-novel; a CUNTfrontation; cry of pain; literary carnival (Bakhtin) DOWN THE DRAIN Derridean dialogic, auto-deconstrutive, democratic novel about difference and the democratic nature of writing; displacement; extended digression; demolition derby; book about death; more dangerous than a photocopying machine; dead end; book of discovery DOWN THE DRAIN book of exploring or expressing the concept of ecriture; book of exaggerations; epistolary fiction DOWN THE DRAIN failure; book of flights (in the manner of LeClezio); exemplary gesture of forgiveness (and love); book about the fifties; about forgetting; DOWN THE DRAIN garden of forking paths; game; the first postmodernist gambling novel; book existing in the gap between memory and imagination; book that emerges not from the head but from the GUTS; golf story; DOWN THE DRAIN proto-hypertext novel; po-mo-post-Holocaust novel (and a book about the impossibility of such a novel); DOWN THE DRAIN; initiation story; a search for idenity, and immigrant novel; DOWN THE DRAIN Jewish novel; one long Jazz solo; Journey to chaos DOWN THE DRAIN; book about knowledge and the limitations of knowledge DOWN THE DRAIN; labyrinth; book of laughter and laughterature; series of interrelated language poems masquerading as an autobiographical novel; novel about language and its limits the way it speaks to us and shapes our sense of ourselves and others; a book of lists DOWN THE DRAIN bi-lingual word machine metafiction masturbatory gesture by the 20th century's great poet of the monstrous machinery of erections reaching in motion DOWN THE DRAIN book of non-knowledge; narcissistic novel; novel about novel-writing DOWN THE DRAIN obsessive novel and a book of obsessions; oedipal novel DOWN THE DRAIN playful novel; parenthetical expression; Proustian novel the past and its relationship to present; the first American poststrucuralist novel [ERASED EARLIER] one of the most powerful and convincing political novels of the past twenty five years; book of plagiarism; pseudo autobiography DOWN THE DRAIN; book of questions (in the manner of Jabes), book about book of Quotations DOWN THE DRAIN a toad novel; book about racism DOWN THE DRAIN; second hand story; surfiction; spatial displacement; struggle of word-design against word-syntax; book about exploring space (of America) and constructing space (textual space); book of and about stories DOWN THE DRAIN bilingual lime machine; book about translation/mis-translation/re-translation DOWN THE DRAIN unreadable novel; book about unspeakability DOWN THE DRAIN book of a voice (or voices)-within-a-voice; visual literature; book about violence (political, linguistic, racial, etc. etc.); verbal test as visual art; violence of language; violence of the holocaust DOWN THE DRAIN war novel retelling of the story of the Wandering Jew DOWN THE DRAIN book about X-X-X-X DOWN THE DRAIN a young-person's novel written by a 48 year old man DOWN THE DRAIN a novel which excludes a return to zero DOWN THE DRAIN.

7. Extended comparison between Federman and Springsteen (in general), "Brilliant Disguises" DOWN THE DRAIN and between TIOLI and BORN TO RUN (in particular) DOWN THE DRAIN.

8. Reference controversial formal concepts (Imagination as Plagiarism/Pla(y)giarism, Leap-Frog Technique, unreadability, Surfiction, Laughterature, etc) Vail [etc.], put. DOWN THE DRAIN.

9. TIOLI's reputation as "unreadable" and "narcissistic" denounced with impassioned counter-claim that "readability" has always been one of the Federman's greatest strengths as a writer DOWN THE DRAIN citation of episodes in TIOLI ("Frogliness," "Remembering Charlie Parker," "Cyrano of the Regiment," "The Buick Special," etc.) as being among the most memorable set pieces in recent American fiction; DOWN THE DRAIN point that too often academics fail to note that TIOLI and all the rest of Federman's work are all books which are perhaps MOST FUNDAMENTALLY expressions of love and forgiveness [ERASE ANALOGY WITH WHITMAN, Unconditionality of love, etc.] — and the need for people to give up hatred by laughter. DOWN THE DRAIN.

10. CANCEL Punch-line set up by ref to laughter and laughterature, the book's success as a rousing, comic exploration of self and America DOWN THE DRAIN satiric impulses display the coherence and consistency of viewpoint which TIOLI's narrative chaos conceals. DOWN THE DRAIN examples of coherent patterns emerging from the turbulent interactions occurring on TIOLI's textual surface — DOWN THE DRAIN in fact, remarkable thematic consistency, readability, thematic and symbolic coherence, other indications of the book as being morally, aesthetically, philosophically, and literarily unified and "successful" etc ALL DOWN THE DRAIN — AND THEREFORE — THE [CANCELED] PUNCH LINE] "TIOLI as a book of deliberate failure which fails so perfectly that it fails even in its effort to be incoherent and unreadable! DOWN THE DRAIN]

After examining the list carefully, the critic found himself greatly relieved; certainly there were other gaps or absences that would need to be filled in later, other topics which would need to be not written about, canceled, avoided — after all, there was a great deal to not write about in TIOLI! — but even this obviously incomplete list had at least removed some of the largest "impediments" to the real foreword whose textual journey he could now finally embark on. That's when the phone rang, seemingly a deus ex machina device but in fact an actual phone attached to an actual human voice, that of Curt White at the FC2 office in Normal, saying that the deadline for getting his foreword in was up, and he meant the REAL DEADLINE, so either FAX the foreword to him PRONTO (don't bother MAILING) that is, NOW, TONIGHT, or the TIOLI reissue would appear without his foreword, so there you had it, put up or shut , up TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT!

The critic's first response was a muted cry of anguish. After all the detours and false starts — and now to have the whole trip canceled. He gazed sadly down at the jumble of computer discs, folders, the tattered copy of TIOLI, his pages of notes and lists, the printouts of miscellaneous incoherent passages from innumerable false starts. Saddest of all was the preparatory work he had just finished — the list of canceled topics which had made completing work on his foreword journey not merely inevitable but close at hand. DOWN THE DRAIN. Finished ... it's finished ... Yes, the real foreword he would write, well, he said to himself regretfully, we'll never know. Because it's all finished.

And so he folded himself upon himself like an old wrinkled piece of yellow paper there at his writing desk as he thought of his foreword, yes, the big beautiful prefatory journey he could have taken readers upon before they embarked on TIOLI itself, with all the exciting, non-formulaic details and insights about the book but now it's all canceled no need trying to go on. ...

Then it occurred to him. Why not "take a page from" Federman (as it were) and use non-knowledge, incoherence, unspeakability, and above all ABSENCE as a starting point for a displacement of the erasure he had just suffered? In short, why not substitute the canceled material — all the stuff generated by and around his initial gesture of rejection earlier, the one that produced the holes, gaps and cancellations whose absence and unspeakability had been displaced in the list of topics to be not written about? Using this list of absences as the main body of the new foreword, thereby serving as a displacement for the primal erasure of the real foreword — even could be said to mirror TIOLI's own principle of using the unbridgeable void, or gap between word and referent as his own foreword's essential moral and aesthetic concern which displaces the original event, the unspeakable enormity and complexity of TIOLI itself?

Yes, why not? And as for the real foreword, too bad it had to be canceled, but perhaps then the next time.

yes ... the next time [SO LONG EVERYBODY!]


Excerpted from Take It or Leave It by Raymond Federman. Copyright © 1976 Raymond Federman. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Subtitle Summary of the Recitation Introduction Dedication Quotations in the Form of a Preambule Pretext: A Spatial Displacement of Words 0. Suppositions & Prelibations 1. Setting & Tripping 2. The Masturbatory Gesture 3. Exploration 4. Frogliness 5. Cyrano of the Regiment 6. Exhilaration 7. Interruptions & Vociferations 8. Superman & Real Life 9. A False Start 10. A Typical Error 11. A Good Start 12. Remembering Charlie Parker or How to Get It Out of Your System 13. Anticipating the Worse 14. Laughter & Literature 15. New York Summer Camps Politics & Slogans Questionnaire 16. By-Pass & Interference 17. A Visitor from Above 18. Replacement & Displacement 19. Dashing from One Parenthesis to Another 20. A Night to Remember 21. Critifiction: Crap Lie or Die 22. The Buickspecial 23. Crucifiction & Cancellation

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