Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Babble

Babble

Babble
by Jonathan Baumbach

Paperback
1976. 118 pp.
978-0-914590-27-9
Price: $9.95

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Babble, a babybook for our time, is a fiction about (1) loss of innocence, (2) rites of passage, (3) family life, (4) babies, (5) baby-sitters, (6) war and peace, (7) robots, (8) raw youth, (9) crime and punishment, (10) stories, (11) sex and death, (12) language, (13) advanced education, (14) love, (15) the invention of culture, (16) mystery, (17) play, (18) fathers and sons, (19) superheroes, (20) the dehumanization of art. Babble is a baby book for grown ups, a comic novel about entering and losing the world, an adult dream of lost babyhood. Like Baumbach's previous novel, Reruns, though moving perhaps one step further out (or in), Babble depicts our world through a screen of metaphors, using the stuff of dreams, memory and cultural fantasy.


"Touching and wildly funny. Should be read by everyone."—Baltimore Sun

"Baumbach has a real gift for alchemizing fictional 'autobiography' into the pure gold of comic terror."—Newsweek


"Humane, imaginative deftly composed..."—Robert Taylor, Boston Globe


 

Excerpt

 


There is at the moment a baby with bowlegs standing on my lap. Quelle chance! He has been in the same position for hours, tilted forward like a figurehead. It is what he likes to do, and I am not, though my knees begin to ache, unappreciative of the honor. "Don't you have anything else to do?" I ask him. The question slides by him like a greased pig. I was meditating when he arrived, trying to come to terms with feelings of failure and emptiness, and have lost concentration, have fallen into vagueness. Why don't I lift him off my lap and return him to the floor? It hurts his feelings. And he is tenacious and will, if removed, find his way back.


Mostly, he just stands there, flexing his knees a bit, looking ahead. He is no trouble, not much, a good boy, self-sufficient and forward-looking. I suggest that he go to the corner and see how the weather bodes. He turns his head to see if I mean what I say, a pained quizzical look on his face.


Nothing frets as much the spirit in my business (meditating) as time wasting. I haven't thought a thought worth thinking since he climbed up on my lap.


Look, I say in desperation, I enjoy having you on my lap but I need a little time by myself and perhaps you would like some time by yourself. He takes the hint and climbs down. "Bye bye," he says wistfully. Two minutes later he is back.


I am in the early middle of a thought when he returns to my lap, so ignore him briefly which is what he is used to. He digs his heels in as if getting ready for a long sieve. "Wipe my drool," he says, "and I'll tell you a story." It is the most words in sequential order I have heard him speak. I pretend not to be astounded so as not to upset his equilibrium, wipe his drool with a yellowing handkerchief.


For an infant, he tells and excellent story. I won't recapitulate it all for you here, but will try to limit myself to the high points. The central figure, not unexpectedly, is a baby.