The Remarkable Raymond Federman

Raymond Federman is one of those authors whose personal story is equally as fascinating as anything most writers come up with. It’s so interesting that Federman uses it as the basic of most of his own writing, with one caveat: Federman insists that he cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality. So, this Federman who is the hero of all the novels … is he the real Federman, an embellished Federman, based on Federman, Federman-like, what Federman wishes Federman was, just a horny French Jew who tells a lot of stories?

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William H. Gass coined the term “metafiction” in a 1970 essay entitled “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction.” Some of us that are more familiar with the works of Raymond Federman might also call it Surfiction. What is metafiction? It is fiction about fiction.

Some forms of metafiction in use today are so horribly clichéd that the author often is branded as a hack without further analysis. Do we really need another secret diary found in a mayonnaise jar on the back porch at Funk and Wagnalls? Other forms of metafiction are make your eyes cross and your head hurt. Two of my favorites are At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien and Take It or Leave It by Raymond Federman. In At Swim there are several levels of reality that are populated by several layers of characters, sort of a telescoped fiction. In Take It the characters in the novel being written relax in the next room when they’re not in a scene of the fiction and even go AWOL at times when tired of waiting for the author to get to the scenes where they resume their job as fictional characters.

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