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

Up


Up
by Ronald Sukenick

Paperback
1999
Price: $18.00

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When Ronald Sukenick's first novel, UP, came out in 1968, post-modernism, avant-pop and autofiction hadn't been invented yet. UP invented them. Ronald Sukenick's ten subsequent books are typically twenty or thirty years ahead of their time, and UP is more timely than ever. Ronald Sukenick is himself the main character of his book, in which he glides undisturbed from present to future, from reality to fantasy. Some of the time he's an adolescent Brooklynite, at other times a part-time English teacher, a struggling writer living in a Lower East Side tenement, or a fantasist deftly moving in and out of numerous alter egos. His comings and goings produce a stunning tour de force of a novel - mutinous, violent, sexy, sad, and above all, funny.


"Beg it, buy it, borrow it or steal it. UP is the most serious and valid anatomy of our culture's ills this reviewer has encountered in the past year's reading."—Minneapolis Tribune


"One of the funniest books of the season, a hilarious outburst of wild comedy. . . . UP is the kind of book that any person in his right mind can enjoy."—Saturday Review


"... the funniest, most successful, and most satisfying new book that I've read in a long time. . . ."—The Nation


"... a compendium of sly jokes on literature . . . a panic of assorted delicacies. . . . He (Sukenick), or do I mean the character of the same name, is an urban, literary, Jewish Don Quixote of our time."—The New York Times Book Review


"Beg it, buy it, borrow it or steal it. UP is the most serious and valid anatomy of our culture's ills this reviewer has encountered in the past year's reading."—Minneapolis Tribune


"... captivating. . . . This former New York college teacher has that rare, run-naked psyche. . . . UP may be an important work of art."—Book Week


". . . the virtuoso of the season, Ronald Sukenick, a young man who can do just about anything with words.">—Irving Howe in Harper's Magazine


Excerpt


The worst thing is the cold. I've always hated being cold-maybe they know that. Outrage, humiliation and dread have all been absorbed into this one, final, petty discomfort. As I sit huddled over my knees on the stone floor, arms crossed over chest, shaken by spasms of shivering, the question of what they intend to do with us, or rather, of how they're going to dispose of us, seems an abstract consideration. I try to pull together the ill-fitting shirt of my pajamalike canvas suit, and I realize that our mortal denouement has become an academic point, even to myself.

I speak of "us," but as a matter of fact I'm quite solitary. I haven't seen anyone since we were herded into the large, white-tiled room that had so much the look of our common death chamber (a slight, bald man who broke down was quickly ushered out a side door-we heard one scream in the distance). There we were told to drop our valuables in a pile, ordered to strip (two nubile high school girls being obliged to disrobe, sobbing, along with the rest) and issued our harsh, gray anonymous canvas suits. Then I was led alone through a labyrinth of stairs, always descending, and corridors lit by an occasional naked bulb, to the bare stone cell with its heavy door-allowing through its tiny grill this minimum of damp light-where I still wonder how they managed to find a place so perfect a cliché of such places, even to the rusticated stone and a large iron ring clamped into the wall. Of modern improvements there is just one: at incalculable intervals the cell is filled with blinding fluorescent light, I hear a latch in the door grill open and, after a long minute close, the light is extinguished, and I'm left again in near-darkness that seems blacker than before.

I've long stopped speculating about the reasons for my being here-in fact, as soon as I recognized the situation, I knew that such speculation would be useless. At first I guessed the police wagon was bringing me, in the incidental company of a few routine suspects, to some garage where, perhaps, my car had been towed in consequence of a minor violation. Every time I asked a question the policemen, two oldish types who looked like they drank a lot of beer and were assigned to school crossings, nodded calmly, as it to reassure me regarding law and order. It was when we were handed over to the mild, businesslike men in quiet suits, and led, about eighty of us, to the open doors of a long, high trailer-truck, that I had my only moment of panic. Now merely my common sense-my body seemed on its own account to rebel against entering. But these ordinary men all about us, otherwise so bland, looked at you with expressions of such terrible implicit power that, although they never showed a weapon, not one of us dared balk.

My first thought was that it had something to do with being Jewish, but it seemed hardly the case that all of us were, and then, after all, that was Hitler. The first shock over, some began talking about due process and habeas corpus, but by then I knew better. It was too much our possible fate, too much a death of my nightmares, to doubt or question. And now as I sit shivering in my cell I know without thinking about what will happen next, and my organism is unable to concern itself with its approaching annihilation, because it's too cold, and the cold is so much more insistently unpleasant.

Why the hell don't they send up some heat?

I go turn on the stove, make some coffee while I'm at it.

On with the radio. Contra solipsism. Retreat from the ivory tower, so baleful and maladive. Contact with Outside essential to nerves-if there is an Outside and if this is a contact.

The administration categorically denies Moscow's charge that the American delegation is trying to systematically wreck the tentative negotiations for a preliminary meeting to discuss the possibility of top level talks on a temporary cessation of the bilateral boycott of the conference to probe resumption of the nuclear moratorium, Washington affirms. The time is one thirteen and a half. Henry Sliesinger reports the news.

Thanks. That lets me know where I stand. Nowhere. I go back to my cramped and littered desk.