I d:dr't lnow E~,n,~lish!Ways to Fail, Dub Mix, Part I*
(INTX(garbled)/cut-up RF & LM)
There are MANY ways in which the thing I am trying to say may be tried in vain to be said. TIOLI
$M: ~ <`ah i ''t`~ltt'L?
Rf'k: 'tmi Ic~r the p~atatrc)c~l}ers .and w.nt to ~imp schc~vl `-at 1 <'tt 13en~ ,~; arl.l tl`~ ~ ~ ~as assi~y!le`] to the >¢~nd Air^horne L)ivision in North C'arolina L'ur-t t3r;i~ i !:St I 4.li`.2 'w'f. \WL'1~; ot'h~asic trainin~ in 1,ennsx-l\rannia 13~, the time I got out ot' t)~lX!~. r!.i ~ f) itl~l I 1# .~` ~ l)1\ 1 ~t xt !e~avc. I NN/ent to see RosalN,-n~ arlcl she s.-iicL the RUNi' ~lew. It V3Ni~IS 'vCU tRiC~;'` . 't.k ',(~\ \~.Ulteti tv L'iLI rne So I lel't some stul't' in her closet. which I ~net~ ~'l .'\!~.1 .!lk't] I \~.iS dON\itl in l ott 13rag~ for.almost .aye.ar And then I volll'':tcv~` <-l ~cy;,~;,, ~ `~` t~ Korea ;\ll this descriLecL in T`'h-e 1i Or Lerfve 1t I tc~ol; .-a trip
Jf`'k`~: ,enou&:.cash ~Bu;,~;,, ~ Speu .~111.?
&F:\~: l,1 I S~.!\`, h S~lIN [T 1!1 $'ew V~rk one more time I had bought a car I w.as,''anihi',l'.'. .lni.l I it i,f'7ht `! hr.ancl ne~; 'Sl 1~1~ mot~th~ greN7 I remember^. and 1 le}t it with her ~ s~ i it tv ! ;.';' .'\11~l t~i`,lnC ol InN clothes and ms, jazz records and so on iS dON\itl in l ott 13rag~ for.almost .aye.ar And then I volll'':tcv~` <-l ~cy;,~;,, ~ `~` t~ Korea ;\ll this descriLecL in l`'h-e 1i Or Lerfve 1t I tc~ol; .-a trip J(t`'`~ ,'.~111 ~ .
L\~l,:1 I S~.!\`, h S~lIN?
R [T: 1!1 $'ew V~rk one more time I had bought a car I w.as,l'.'. .lni.l I it i,f'7ht `! hr.ancl ne~; 'Sl 1~1~ mot~th~ greN7 I remember^. and 1 le}t it with her ~ s~ i it tv ! ;.';' .'\11~l t~i`,lnC ol InN clothes and ms, jazz records and so on. . .
IM: ~ ' 4; !: ') t1 ~|1'\ '), '. , 1t,'l~( \~L 1-'( ~ ll ~Itt'N ~?
K F *: ' l i ~ t -! ~ i~ i l<~ c ~ ~ N, 1~ ~ ~1 d .1 r ~ i t e l h ~a`, I l-~awn ed in [ ~.tS Veg.as And then in `~.an l~'r ancis co -- l don't ~n~.~ it' 7 ei,k't' t<>l~l N`~ th.~t~ hut I pirnl}ed I met .t pr^c)stitute ancl I l'ucked her I Nh,ax r>~` ~ ~ an~l I ~ ~1 "N `~ \~ant to m.iL;e a fevv bucks)?" I said I had tall these buddies ,,\ ('r ttlCrt' WllL'!'C iqN't' ~ er <' StAN~'in,~ W.iltilig to be shipl}ed out So she would ch.ar^joe tWt'!l~' !~'ich s .~!~.: ~ilt' w\'Lil] ,giN e me l'i~ c bucks for e.ach au>, She must ha\ c fucked a dozer~ ~ ~1 tllv n ~,' xl~etn tWC:.)t' three weeks on the hoat tc, Korea \!>,1 ti-~i l r'>~n Ir~ m the middle vt''5~ to March '54
L,Nfl: b~ ~ ~ w e~ ~:, ~ ~ K~ ~ e.i just in ie~ I N, Vou wer^e at Inchon
R1: ~ T. tt: <'~f~:f ,~f~ ~ ll~t.~ll~e ~ x~all1"I d:dr't lnow E~,n,~lish!"
[*From approximately 2 until 3:30 p.m. on the 4th of April, 1996, LM conducted an extended interview with RF in RFs fancy new car (personalized license plates that read: MOINOUS) while RF did a number of errands for his wife Erica. As per usual RFs total absorption in his storytelling, which included hand gesticulations, made the drive hazardous not merely for the driver and his passenger, but for a number of other cars, trucks and one crowded city bus which were forced to swerve suddenly out of the way as we sailed serenely past them, the raucous sounds of to Art de Fakts new CD featuring RF reading selections from his poetry (see "Surfiction Jazz") blaring in and out of our unrolled windows drowning out the squeal of protesting brakes and blaring horns. Fuck em, I thought, were in the Zone (by that I mean the Zone of RFs remarkable storytelling gift) and no amount of noise generated by a few disgruntled motorists, truckdrivers, and one city bus driver were going to make even a dent in this private narrative space we were moving through.
Yes, thats right, even riding there in the deathseat I felt utterly serene, or perhaps not exactly "serene" so much as absorbed, captivated, amazed orto settle on a more appropriate metaphor--transported in a manner Ive grown accustomed to during the past twenty years when I get to settle back and let RF to continue telling one unbelievable anecdote after another, "unbelievable" not because I dont think they occurred exactly but because they are so fabulous, funny, outrageous, and perhaps its worth stating right here that despite all of RFs many disclaimers to the contrary, its not just his manner of telling the story of his life, or the life of his story, that makes what he tells you so interesting but the CONTENT as well, despite RFs repeated statements to the effect that what has happened to him isnt all THAT unusual, in fact, quite the contrary is true, the more you find out about the events and incidents that have made up his life/story, the more you realize how truly amazing and fabulous this life/story really is. And while this amazing life/story has a number of features or subplots that anyone can relate to, that have universal applications, its also a distinctly AMERICAN story as well. Of course, Im aware that what has attracted the most attention about RFs work, what his work is most associated with by most readers and critics, is something elsefor instance, the European subplots (the Closet, the escape, the camps, the train, the potatoes), and the highly unusual WAY he has told his life/story ( the typographical experimentation of the early books, their crazed energy, digressiveness, incoherent, and alleged unreadability, their reflexiveness, and so on)but Ive gradually grown to realize that what is most remarkable, most significant and most (if you will pardon the expression) unique about RFs life/story ultimately ISNT the closet episode, no, what happened to him on July 16, 1942, strange and awful and as it was, merely served as a pre-text, prelude, or midwife to an even more remarkable, more amazing, more fascinating story, the story of what resulted from these earlier events, what happened AFTERWARDSin other words, the story of the rest of RFs life/story. Or rather, the rest of RFs life/STORIES, because RFs life/story turns out to be not just one continuous coherent narrative about one individual person but consisted of dozens, perhaps hundreds of fabulous MICRO-STORIES about several RADICALLY DIFFERENT people, all of speaking different exotic lingoes in incredible thick accents that are incomprehensible to the others, with each of their branching narrative lines forking off digressively in different directions, so that none of them could ever possible rejoin any of the others later on. And as far as the "content" of these stories is concerned, I suspect that anyone who didnt know RF as well as I do would have their credibility stretched to the breaking point by listening to any one of these stories; if you tried to convince anyone that all these exaggerated, incoherent, diverging second hand tales belonged to one man (though one who possessed many identities), you would have almost certainly would gone beyond the breaking pointWAY beyond, FAR OUT, ETC..
At any rate, "I d:dr't lnow E~,n,~lish!" is an excerpt from a particularly "juicy" portion of the interview we did that afternoon. Readers will probably be initially puzzled by the somewhat peculiar form the interview is currently in; these peculiarities are due to the fact that Jamie Fox (the graduate student who did the transcription of the original taped interview) didnt have access to a word processor, and so was forced to laboriously type out the conversation on her ancient manual typewriter; the information contained on the pages of Faxs typed first draft subsequently underwent further deterioration when I inadvertently left her typed ms. in the back seat of my convertible during a summer squalla process of decay which continued during the next phase of completing work on the interview, when these pages were "read": by a computer scanner (which evidently experienced some difficulties in "translating" the one set of codes into English), transferred to an IBM-formatted computer disc, whose files were then transferred to a disc readable by my own Macintosh system.
Im aware my decision to present the interview in this current "unreadable" fashion may initially frustrate or confuse some readersespecially those readers as yet uninfected with the Federman virus and who would therefore likely expect to read an orderly, edited version of our conversationand that what I am presenting here instead may even seem somewhat peculiar to even to fans of RF works who couldnt care less about "readability" or categories such as "order" and "disorder". On the other hand, presenting RFs remarks in this [garbled] manner strikes me as being entirely appropriate, given the prominent role that RF has given in his work to the issues of translation, and the "slippage" of meaning that occurs when "meaning" is transferred from one cultural or linguistic system to another, and the many frustrations and confusions that result from having something to express but not being able to do so do to the inadequacies of the medium at your disposal (see "Remembering Charlie Parker"). In fact, then, the seemingly incomprehensible, unreadable nature of "I d:dr't lnow E~,n,~lish!" actually can be read (or misread) as being a kind of heightened (if admittedly garbled) emblem not only of RFs own personal circumstances (his arrival in the U.S. without being able to speak English, etc etc.) but of the frustrations and confusions we all face whenever we attempt to make ourselves understood to anyone else.
Ill conclude by noting that there is also more going on here than mere formal pyrotechnics. Readers who are familiar with the overall trajectory of RFs life (and those who are not may wish at this point to briefly consult "Chronology: January 1952") will immediately recognize the "content" of "I d:dr't lnow E~,n,~lish!" as another [garbled, unreadable] version of RFs exploits while enroute to San Francisco, where he was due to ship out with the 82nd Airborn for the Korean War battlefront. Facing such an uncertain future, it is no wonder that RF decided to unwind a bit in Vegas and then later beneath the Golden Gate before bidding Sayonara to to home and heading off to test himself in the skies over enemy lands. These episodes, recounted for us here with RFs typical [garbled] élan (though unfortunately it is impossible to render the incredible French accent in the current version with any degree of accuracy) have heretofore never appeared in print. . . .]