Fiction. Poetry. California Interest. Women's Studies. LGBT Studies. Jocelyn Saidenberg's DEAD LETTER is a phenomenal dig into the tell of America's consciousness. In DEAD LETTER we hear Bartleby's voice beyond his singular, negative I prefer not to: his desire, his bewilderment and finally his revolt. Rarely has one person's point of view been so long awaited.
"The first thing a reader will notice is that DEAD LETTER is Jocelyn Saidenberg's rewriting of Herman Melville's profoundly ambiguous story 'Bartleby the Scrivener.' Under Saidenberg's canny rendering, a radical repositioning of the story's narrative consciousness takes place, allowing the Scrivener an opportunity to inscribe, into the account of his 'passivity,' his capacity for resistance and love. Melville's character mutes his senses and lapses into perfect inactivity; Saidenberg's insists and occupies. That his insistence is on negativity makes it no less forceful; that his occupation is motivated by love makes it no less political. This is a tale of Wall Street, and readers will be reminded of the recent occupation there. But, more fundamentally, this is a tale of the Other as autonomous, exercising a refusal to be used even as an object of interpretation, and requiring the right to love."—Lyn Hejinian
"More than a retelling of Melville's 'Bartleby the Scrivener,' DEAD LETTER is a revelation: it digs into the core of the original and pulls out the hidden, the unthought, the previously unspoken. Saidenberg pushes Bartleby's 'preferring not to' through the first layer of refusal—that act of will, insistence of self—into the terrain of love and death, death by love, a most extreme form of devotion. This novel is a profound examination of where desire and writing meet the living, working body: 'my asylum of thinking not thinking thinking.' At first, it held me then it blew me away."—Renee Gladman
"Jocelyn Saidenberg's DEAD LETTER enjoins us to listen for unlinking at the moment of refusal. Her haunted graceful I functions as a kind of narrative nachtraglicheit; where language from the past fashions an elegant embargo on the present: This event will/have happened. DEAD LETTER gorgeously holds us to the strange space between cause and effect, between what arrives unbidden and what we convince ourselves we prefer not to entertain. There is no reason on earth to prefer not to read this sublime book."—Kim Rosenfield
"What if I prefer not to write myself legibly? What if going forward equals believing in a prison of legibility? What if I decline yes, no, and all other positions? Then disbelief becomes its own mysticism and speech becomes an oracle from the other side of the limit. This figure without form in Jocelyn Saidenberg's DEAD LETTER has the empty voice of negative space. It is the White Whale's gabby cousin!—translating the deep shadow of an expanding empire into the deeper shadow of a contracting one. Was there ever more fertile aporia or truer Valentine?—that is, founded so purely on loss?"—Robert Glück
Jocelyn Saidenberg is a writer, educator, and performer based in the Bay Area. Her books include: KITH & KIN (The Elephants, 2018), Mortal City (Parentheses Writing Series, 1998), CUSP (Kelsey St. Press, 2001), NEGATIVITY (Atelos Press, 2007), DEAD LETTER (Roof Books, 2014), in addition to three chapbooks, Dusky, Dispossessed, and Shipwreck. Her work has been published in several journals and anthologies such as SFMoMA Open Space, The Encyclopedia Project, and Bay Poetics. Since 1998 she has worked as the founding editor and publisher for Krupskaya Press, with 39 titles circulating to date, and has curated literary events through Bay Area arts organizations, in addition to serving as the long-time director of Small Press Traffic. She teaches creative writing at UC Berkeley and the Prison University Project at San Quentin.
Author City: SAN FRANCISCO, CA USA