What characterizes Sukenick’s fiction is its comedy, its sexual exuberance, its innovations in structure and characterization, and the accuracy of its depiction of the cultural context.
On September 11, 2001, Ronald Sukenick was in his Battery Park studio working on a novel about the American “Museum of Temporary Art” when he looked out his window and saw the first of the jets strike the World Trade Center. He then proceeded to reconceive the novel, now entitled Last Fall, having grasped that the “Museum of Temporary Art” was America itself, and its ikon the World Trade Center. In Last Fall an older generation of artists, intellectuals, and arts professionals investigate an art theft, “something missing” from the Museum, but the transience of the collections makes it impossible to identify what’s gone. Recovering the work means exposing the secret of the Museum’s creation, a conspiracy of the “why” chromosome transforming all the suspects into an American family.
… the virtuoso of the season, Ronald Sukenick, a young man who can do just about anything with words.
The Death of the Novel
Ronald Sukenick’s notorious 1969 story collection remains among the least forgettable creations of an unforgettable age. Irrepressibly experimental in both content and form, these anti-fictions set out to rescue experience from its containment within artistic convention and bourgeois morality. Equal parts high modernist aesthete and borscht belt comedian, Sukenick joins avant-garde art with street slang and cartoons, expressing his generation’s anxieties by simultaneously mocking and literalizing them. These are original works by a writer who’ll try absolutely anything.
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.
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.
… the funniest, most successful, and most satisfying new book that I’ve read in a long time.
… 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.
… captivating … This former New York college teacher has that rare, run-naked psyche.… Up may be an important work of art.
For three decades, Ron Sukenick’s fiction has been essential reading for anyone who cares about serious (not somber) fiction in America, and Mosaic Man may be his magnum opus.
In Mosaic Man, Ronald Sukenick turns his innovative style to the roots of Western and Jewish tradition. Using the form of the Old Testament as a contemporary Jewish epic, Sukenick reinvents the Jewish novel in the context of Pop culture, and repositions it on the cutting edge of millennial America. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Mosaic Man, you just have to like comics, movies, and TV. In a book that has already received praise as a major work, Sukenick, one of the old masters of Postmodern fiction, here draws on traditional Jewish narratives such as the Golem story, and presents a vast scope of post-holocaust experience, moving from New York to Paris to Poland to Italy to Jerusalem. Spanning a range from rough sex to quasi-theological speculations, from moral injunction to liberating autobiographical candor, the book is a mosaic of stories making the case that in our new electronic universe the parts are the whole. The experience of a kid in Brooklyn, of an old writer in Venice, of a mystical tourist in Israel, all become part of a patchwork identity in quest of a moral culture. In this sometimes dark, but always funny, novel, Sukenick continues his lifelong preoccupation with arriving at contemporary truth through fiction.
To paraphrase an old rye bread ad, you don’t have to be Jewish or postmodern to love Mosaic Man.
Ron Sukenick’s Mosaic Man is his most stunning achievement thus far. It is wonderfully written and wonderfully intelligent.
Mosaic Man presents the Jew as archetype and prototype, comedian, tragedian, and scribe. This is grandeur and pathos folks. Step right up.
There is no more original voice in American fiction than Ronald Sukenick’s. Mosaic Man is superb.
Ronald Sukenick’s Henry Miller-meets-cyberpunk novel, Mosaic Man, is an instant avant-pop classic.
It is Sukenick’s masterpiece.
Sukenick does every kind of shtick in Mosaic Man, from Henry Roth to Lenny Bruce.
A terrific, warm, funny, touching story.
A rolling energy, pouring information and serious ideas on this information with the abundance of a good working shower head.
Doggy Bag is an outrageous Avant-Pop answer to T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Don’t waste anything: recycle it, cut it up, and snarf it down like a Naked Lunch. Doggy Bag is a net of hyperfictions about Americans in a spiritually exhausted Europe forced to recycle the trash of their own culture. Under the dictatorship of the consumer, ecology is freedom. Written in a person-to-person and often interactive style, Doggy Bag samples advertising, the entertainment industry, and B-movie versions of ancient mythologies, splices in cryptograms, weird graphic designs, humans infected with a computer virus, conspiracy projection studios, and neural image fabrication by Total Control, Inc., and gives you characters like Jim Morrison, Federico Fellini, a bird named Edgar Allan Crow, a secret sect of White Voodoo Financial Wizards, the Iron Sphincters, and Bruno the sex dog. Hardcore porno, Doggy Bag surfs simulacra the way Kerouac cruised the Great American Highway. Recommended for punks, hackers, slackers, rappers, sex fiends, skate rats, metal maniacs, troublemakers, pleasure junkies, buttonheads, disaffected students, and other rabble addicted to good writing.
The very best sort of experimental writing by one of the best writers of it.
Endless Short Story
I, Bitchakokoff, Kewpie Slitz, Dong Wang, Crown Prince von Moccasin, and Aziff defy common sense in a series of topographical adventures that skate across the page as if there were no yesterday. These interconnected stories project a sense of life as ongoing improvisation in which you never know what’s going to happen next, in which you are always in the middle of the story and in which events do not begin and end but only start and stop. Making use of the urban folklore of childhood, the resources of typography and the eccentricities of experience, they have the continuity of a doodle, a comic strip, or a painting by Paul Klee. Written in a style that pits the reality of the page against the fictionality of life, these stories address the strangeness, comedy, and unpredictability of common experience, moving from hyper-realism to a childlike playfulness and covering a wide range of moods and levels of organization. The Endless Short Story continues Ronald Sukenick’s dialogue with “the intelligence,” in which he has said, “You practice a discipline of abstraction I practice a discipline of inclusion. You practice a discipline of reduction I of addition. You pursue essentials I ride with the random. You cultivate separation toward stillness I rest in movement.”
Sukenick’s prose style is fast, nervy, exciting, like Mailer and even Kerouac at their best.
Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues
Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues traces the movements of a group of exiles caught in the “accelerated shatter” of a contemporary society. Under the “new conditions” the revolution has failed and the conglomerates have taken over, while individuals skirt every nameless abyss — of language, of love, of sexuality, of loss — inside themselves. Using an original form resembling the rhythmic variations and repetitions of a long song, and with the brilliant sense of play typical of his previous fiction, Suckenick’s “talking blues” follows these characters as they try to juggle with their own psyches and the several systems of language, economics, politics, and technology that conspire to control and destroy their personal lives.
A kind of cross between the Sterne of Tristram Shandy and the Thomas Pynchon of V (and for my money more readable than Pynchon), Sukenick combines fantasy and parody and satire brilliantly.
The finest new fictionists — Sukenick, Kosinski, Reed, Gardner, and Barthelme — have produced fictive veils which insist both that the world can only be known through the imagination, and also certainly that it must be known.
There is obviously a very accomplished writer at play-work here … What Sukenick is after is … the way into some “secret language,” which will open up old magics and new possibilities not currently inscribed in our texts.
Quick now, read him before he invents again!
… great humanity, truly embodying part of our own epoch’s nightmare and aspiration.
A group of people, trying to contend with the failure of hope that took place at the end of the sixties, withdraws from what they call “The Dynasty of the Million Lies” and creates a settlement in the woods of the far west. These refugees from our culture, trying to live a healthy, normal life as pioneers of a latter-day frontier, find they are forced to pay heavily for their retreat in terms of sexuality, death, and insanity. The novel consists of three parts: “Frankenstein,” “The Children of Frankenstein,” and “Palestine.” The first section is a disjointed documentary collage expressing the violent chaos of the culture, the second is a narrative about the settlement with its communal and sexual experimentation, and the third, “Palestine,” is a utopian vision of Israel that takes place on a perfect kibbutz in which all problems are solved. 98.6 is a novel that marks the end of a generation of hope without giving in to hopelessness.