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 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. While 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. Consquently, 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.
"Federman's book is a signal achievement."—Contemporary Literature
"A masterful, entirely fascinating accomplishment which will bear several readings, leaving one in high expectations of Federman's next book."—Chicago Sun-Times
What? Oh you guys want to know where I was? Why I left my post ... why I deserted the recitation? Deserted! You guys exaggerate. I had to go to the bathroom. No ... I'm kidding. I went to see a friend. Buddy of mine, Ronnie. Ronald Sukenick. You know UP and OUT and 98.6 - Fiction Collective. He was having problems with his story. Wanted me to help a bit. I was only gone for a short time. At the most two sections during the visits of your delegates. But shit . . . what a mess here! That poor guy had a rough time by himself. Really fucked up things down here. He should have waited for me rather than go on by himself. Well better get to work quickly and straighten out this damn recitation. Got to get the story going again. Let's see where were we? Oh yes, you guys wanted to know more about his past. No? Oh you wanted to know if he still played the saxophone. No? That's not it? Oh you wanted o know why he hadn't told Marilyn . . . Why he was crossing Massachusetts and Vermont to get to Upper New York State? It's not logical you say since he had left from a place in New York State to get to another place in New York State. From New York City which is in fact in New York State. I agree with you that doesn't make much sense. He should have stayed in New York State. (You see what a good mood I am in!) Yes what the fuck is he doing in New England? But you guys don't know your map of America. For if you look at the map of this region carefully you will immediately see that to get to Camp Drum from New York City it is in fact more direct to pass - bypass if you prefer - through Massachusetts and Vermont. At least within the logistics of this story it makes sense. Moreover in the context of this story which unloads in all directions without respect for logic and with rather crooked means it is indeed impossible to follow a straight line! For if one examines the topology of this recitation one quickly notices that we are now in the Northeast of our journey a few degrees Northeast of the right angle of our eventual destination. In other words more or less on the most direct road to the end of this story. Almost there at least. As far as I can tell. And since maps never lie one can see that he had to cross Massachusetts and Vermont (including a small section of Southwest Connecticut) to get to where he was going. And if all that does not make sense you can go cook yourself an egg sunnyside up because I can fed up with all your dumb questions. I was hoping that after having delayed the action so long you guys would be anxious to hear the end of this story. Especially after that dirty filthy sneaky trick you played on the poor guy. Sending him that critiqueer! Don't act innocent. He may not have realized what was happening to him but I know what this is all about. You're not going to tell me I am inventing what happened in that motel room! Not at the stage where we are. And that while I went to visit Ronnie while I was absent so to speak and you guys were taking a little break so you claim the poor guy took the wrong road! Mesdames et Messieurs! We are on the right road. I am back for good and I shall keep going to the end of all this. Therefore a little effort and I'll get us to Camp Drum. In the North. On time to collect our money! On time to get back to New York City! Sell our Buick! Fuck Marilyn if possible and this time without worrying about Benny! We have to before taking off for the big trip. One more time. Perhaps for the last time as far as I know. And then where we go! The big trip! Across country! The great discovery at least! Coast to Coast! America here we come and then you'll hear some tremendous stories! The real thing this time and no more of this wordshit! Therefore let's hurry up and get him moving!
Take It Or Leave It
Take It Or Leave It