Year-End Report: 2007

Before you ask (yet again), yes, the Rockaway house is still in progress. A lawyer was hired on contingency well over a year ago to sue for damages, but because of delay that seems intrinsic in gaining justice he hasn't yet gotten to the first base of taking depositions. These are scheduled for early January. Meanwhile, another architect is working on rebuilding, but this hasn't yet begun either. I might get into my larger space this coming year, some seven years after the property was purchased, five years after the bum building was nearly complete; but don't bet on it. As most of my library has been stored in unmarked boxes for years now, while my physical situation is limiting, dispirited I remain.

Much of the summer was spent at NYC beaches, which are preferable for various reasons to those out of town. (Consider that the gradual slope at both the Rockaways and Brighton-Coney Island permits extended bodysurfing for me and splashing for kids, both of which are impossible at beaches with a sharper slope, such as those at Jones Beach, on Fire Island, and further out on Long Island.) When I was bodysurfing with the lifeguards at Beach 60th St. in the Rockaways, one of them told me, “We watch you. We know you can do everything we can do, but you're sort of slow.” I reminded him that I obtained my Red Cross Senior Life Saving certificate fifty-one years ago. Though I can swim a mile in less than one hour, I doubt if I can do 440 yards in less than seven minutes required to be a NYC lifeguard. I continue to take the coach's class in springboard diving at the NYU pool, no doubt the oldest (and, alas, heaviest) diver in the class, and continue to learn new dives and get better at old ones. I expect to do both bodysurfing and diving until something unfortunate lays me low.

My major publishing project for the past year has been putting into print several languishing literary texts, some in progress for decades, that have proven too problematic for established publishers. Among those appearing perfectbound from Archae Editions are Autobiographies at Fifty, the third volume of a continuing monumental project, 8” x 8”, 160 pages; Kaddish and Other Audio Texts, 50 pp., with 2 cds (with selected audioart unavailable elsewhere). My most radical uncollected stories, both verbal and visual, appear as Furtherest Fictions continuously on recto pages whose verso have my colleague John M. Bennett's poems continuously, each for 289 pages. Surely the most monumental, this last avant-garde classic (from birth) is available on demand @ $28.34 not from Archae but from http://www.cafepress.com/bluelionbooks66.105654936. Though I generally resist offers to publish anything of mine initially on the Internet (because I find it isn't read, in contrast to previously printed texts subsequently available on the Internet), I found that Vugg Press (www.vuggpress.com) was the most appropriate medium for all 820 pages of my Vertical Single-Sentence Stories, appropriated dedicated to William Faulkner.

I also produced in three copies handwritten editions of both Yet More Portraits from Memory and Split/tings on gold-surfaced cards and both Reversals and Identicals on semi-transparent paper. I made variously limited LaserJet Editions on cardstock 8 1/2 x 11” of varying thickness: Universe of Sentences, 244 cards; A Condensed Novel, 15 cards; Sixteen Single-Sentence Stories, from 28 to 62 cards; Metafictions, 48 cards: Ephemeralization, 6 cards; More Or Less, 127 cards; Minimal Erotic Fictions, 123 cards.; and Sinfinitie, 75 or so cards, written on both sides. Of 1000 Epiphanies, one copy appears on both sides of 500 sheets and another copy on only one side of 1000 heavier semi-gloss sheets. For various kinds of clear containers I also produced laser-printed editions of other long-languishing texts of mine: Micro Fictions, Minimal Aphorisms (thus alluding to fortune-cookie slips), English English, Short Novels, 3-Letter Texts, and 2-Letter Texts.

Among my titles appearing under other imprints are Seven Jewish Short Fictions, 7 pp. (Marymark); Fulcrapoems, 36 pp. (Red Fox); Bilingual Poems: 28 pp. (Cerena Barva); Foul Stories and Minimal Aphorisms, both of which were mimeographed on card stock at the downtown book-art store Dexter Sinister (respectively 13 pp. & 11pp). Other smallpresses have asked to publish other texts of mine, the most important being Toward Secession: More Political Essays (Autonomedia); but I typically don't announce new titles until they are safely in hand.

For the annual Lower East Side Howl Festival, Shalom (Neuman) and Deborah Freies of Fusion Arts, just two blocks west of the booming Bowery, mounted my Epiphanies, in progress for nearly three decades by now, with the single-sentence stories printed on 1000 sheets distributed within a basement space. Continuous on a monitor were my 1985 video realizations of some of these texts; in a boombox was my audiotape of many people speaking these stories. On a screen were selected scenes from the film (1982-1994) that was also shown continuously for half of its four hours on the concluding Sunday. Seeing my film Epiphanies with others for the first time in years, first at Two Boots-Pioneer and then at Fusion Arts, I was reminded how successful it is at prompting various responses from an audience (as few films do)-some people laughing or gasping at certain places, other people audible at other places. Different in its beginnings, as perhaps the only fiction film compiled entirely from found footage, it is also experienced differently. I hope to see it again sometime, not only continuously but perhaps in an installation with four monitors perhaps on four sides of a space, each showing one of the four sixty-minute DVDs continuously, while a single soundtrack is heard, with or without the rest of the Fusion Arts installation. That setup would intensify the work's cohering theme of the exhaustive experience of the experience of fictions. Much as I'm willing to share DVD copies of this film Epiphanies with colleagues, viewing it alone cannot begin to rival the experience of seeing it with others.

When I set out to become a writer over forty years ago, I didn't plan to do electro-acoustic music and visual art along with prose. Works in these domains arose mostly as a reflection of what I read and saw and then my residing in lower Manhattan, which has inspired the creation of alternative work in many more people than myself. (“Downtown” remains an appropriate discrimination.) The person most surprised not just by the artistic work but the recognitions has been me.

Over the years I've been able to make many things happen for many colleagues, sometimes by mentioning them favorably in a critical context, more often by including them in my taste-making anthologies. Among the most surprising results of the latter move benefited Sheldon Frank, who first introduced himself to me with a critical fan letter in 1967. When he came to NYC in the late 1970s, I got to work with him and so included his text “As I Was Saying” in my anthology Text-Sound Texts (1980), though I was not aware of him publishing anything other than literary criticism and fiction before. One reason to make books is that they have a way of reaching people whom you never met and do not even know about. It seems that two European singers-one a Dutchman most adept at alternative vocalizing (Jaap Blonk), the other an Englishman renowned for performing early music (Paul Hillier)-discovered Sheldon's text in my anthology and decided to perform it apparently with their own pitching(s). That accounts for how Hillier's Oct. 2007 program at Zankel (within Carnegie Hall) promised Sheldon Frank, Luciano Berio, and David Lang (co-founder of Bang on a Can). In short, thanks to my publishing him, Sheldon not only became a composer performed in major-league company but he got to Carnegie Hall, so to speak, all without practicing.

From the start, I thought it important to do work that would survive-classics, if you will-and so have come to treasure recognitions that indicate this ambition had succeeded, particularly individual entries in Wikipedia, NNDB.com, Postmodern Fiction, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Encyclopedia Britannica, Who's Who in American Art, Advocates for Self-Government, The Chronology of American Literature, Webster's Dictionary of American Writers, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, A Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, The Facts on File Companion to 20th Century Poetry, Contemporary Jewish-American Dramatists and Poets, The HarperCollins Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature, among others. I've not met most of the people choosing to recognize my work in these books; for though I have made many friends professionally, my work has more fans. (This distinction between fans and friends will separate those whose work will survive from the cultural operators.) No matter what the name of the edifice I've built for myself might be, there is no doubt that I'm its king (no, King). Since my work should survive me, I've established an RK Trust that will inherit all my properties. Expecting to run it into the foreseeable future, I've nonetheless chosen three executors to succeed me.

The greatest disappointment was that the NYU athletic czars, whose pool I patronize for both swimming and diving, rejected my application to sing The Star Spangled before a basketball game. I practiced enough to know that if I begin with D in the key of G, I could hit all the notes firmly and, further, give distinction to my performance by following the pacing of the great spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” (Can't you also hear the applause?) Though the posted solicitation seemed open to everyone, only students, I was told, could perform it. Dammit. Not having sung publicly in decades, I was looking forward to this.

Those recipients treasuring these year-end missives might like to know that previous recent ones are now treasured, so to speak, on my website: www.richardkostelanetz.com, which also has lots of other charming stuff.

To all recipients, best wishes for the coming year, RK