Out

Article excerpt

During the 1970s, Chicago Review published many writers who experimented with chronology, characterization, and the nature of narrative; Jonathan Baumbach, Raymond Federman, John Mella, and Gilbert Sorrentino were among those who contributed "metafiction" or "superfiction" to the magazine. The Winter 1972 issue featured an excerpt from Ronald Sukenick's forthcoming novel, Out, along with an interview with the author and an essay discussing his work by Jerome Klinkowitz. Sukenick, already the author of the experimental novel, Up (1968), and of a collection of short fiction, The Death of the Novel (1969), explained the attraction of self-reflexive narration in the interview with Joe David Bellamy:

My whole idea about fiction is that it's a normal, if I may use the word, epistemological procedure; that is, it is at the very center of everybody all the time at any period; and you don't have to search for psychological reasons, although they may be there too. But I think the epistemological ones are far more anterior. It's a way of making up the world and making sense of it.

Hi. Everything up to here has been a novel. My feeling about it so far is it's serious. But it's going to get even more serious that's also my feeling about myself. What a coincidence. Anyway that's my feeling about it on this page in any case it's

my attempt to sort out my feelings about certain things that have been happening to me lately like Pixie for example I can't get her off my mind. Is she really a friend of Empty Fox I should have asked him. Also what's the meaning of the 7-3-10

numerological scheme that runs through the book and of the code message near the beginning what about the plot is it all part of a plot. If I knew that I'd probably know what's going to happen next which I don't either in my novel or in my life.

Except sometimes maybe like Ali Buba's warning about head wounds I wrote that six months before the garage door came down on my head. But this is a subject I don't like thinking about too eerie. All I know is I'm getting messages I don't know

where they come from or who else gets them it's a mystery to me I just pass it on and hope it comes together this is a message. Part of the message is get a road map all these places are real even the more unlikely ones I've traveled among them slept in

their campsites their motels form is when you look back and see your footprints in the sand. Meaning disintegrates connection proliferates what does that mean. Red Desert for example that's where Roland Sycamore is staying now Roland Sycamore you

don't know this yet peeled off from the Sukenick character after the karate fight and the latter is no longer a character at all but the real me if that's possible I'm getting out of this novel. When you fly too far you don't come back. Red Desert is in

South Central Wyoming just a fraction of a mile to the north of the Continental Divide. To the north of the Continental Divide that's right because Red Desert is at the inner edge of a huge absence in the middle of the country surrounded by peaks eight

to ten thousand feet high which drains neither east nor west but into itself known as the Great Divide Basin and do you know what's inside this prodigy absolutely nothing desert except for a drainhole in the middle emptying into the void. So here we are

at the source. Omphalos. Roland alone with his body in his room at The New Vacancy Motel thinking about the dream he just had the dream is about Pixie he doesn't know that yet. The dream is about getting mugged the message says.

The dream is about getting mugged I write. On the Lower East Side late at night it says. On the Lower East Side late at night I write. Somebody comes up behind Roland and puts a knife to

his throat maybe it's Jojo.

Somebody comes up behind Roland and puts a knife to

his throat I think it is Jojo.

Hand over your wallet or you're dead says Jojo this is

on a dark sidestreet hand over your wallet or you're dead says Jojo this is on a dark sidestreet about two AM noone around Roland tries an elbow to Jojo's ribs the blade edge saws across his adam's apple okay okay anything says Roland I should kill

you for that says Jojo no wallet in pocket says Roland he can feel blood running down the front of his neck get it out quick and don't do nothing sudden Roland fishes out his wallet remembers a story about a girl held up at gunpoint handing over

her money then getting shot anyway Jojo grabs the wallet at that moment Roland smashes his fist up against the wrist of Jojo's knife hand whiffs slams Jojo's temple with his elbow kicks him in the balls picks up the wallet and knife helps Jojo to

his feet for some dreadful reason Roland has to help Jojo to the Avenue he puts Jojo's arm around his neck half drags half walks him down the street Jojo all the while muttering I'm gonna getchew man gonna cutchew up gimme back my knife you

cocksuckuh gonna get my friends gimme it now maybe I letchew alone gonna kill you cocksuckuh maybe this week maybe next week I getchew you fucking cocksuckuh when they reach the Avenue Jojo won't let Roland go Roland heads for his

building you gonna take me up to your place you mothafuck I'm gonna kill you cocksuckinmothafuckuh two men are talking in the vestibule Roland knows one of them help he won't let go says Roland use that knife says the man it says. …