notes for alice kaplan’s “the céline effect”

Alice Kaplan, "The Céline Effect: A 1992 Survey of Contempoary American Writers.From Modernism/modernity. Volume 3, Number 1, January 1996, pp. 117-136.


1 Tropic of Cancer was finally published in September 1934 in Paris by the Obelisk Press, a publisher of pornography. Miller launched his own publicity campaign for the book.

2 Georges Brassaï, Henry Miller: grandeur nature (Paris: Gallimard, 1975), quoted in editor’s notes of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit, ed. Henri Godard (1932; Paris: Gallimard, 1981), 1279.

3 See Robert Ferguson, Henry Miller: A Life (New York: Norton, 1991), 307-308; and François Gibault, Céline, vols. 2 and 3 (Paris: Mercure de France, 1981, 1985).

4 Samuel Putnam, "Prelude to the Revolution," review of Journey to the End of the Night, by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Saturday Review of Literature, 28 April 1934, 657-62.

5 See One Hundred and Fifty Years of Publishing: 1837-1987 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1987), 91.

6 Kenneth Rexroth, "The Influence of French Poetry on America" (1959), in The World Outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth (New York: New Directions, 1987), 163.

Rexroth’s hostility toward Eliot’s orthodoxy, as well as toward Pound, the American New Critics, and what he called the "Reactionary Generation" pervades his essays; see The World Outside the Window. For Rexroth’s view of Céline, see especially "The Commercialization of the Image of Revolt," reprinted in The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, ed. Ann Charters, vol. 16 of Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983), 643-50, where Céline is described, in retrospect, as "the man whose writing first moved me to . . . reconsider my own position and the general tradition to which I suppose I belong" (647).

7 Kenneth Rexroth, American Poetry in the Twentieth Century (New York: Seabury, 1971), 170-71.

8 Allen Ginsberg, "Ignu," in Kaddish and Other Poems, 1958-1960 (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1961), 59.

9 Allen Ginsberg, quoted in Erika Ostrovsky, Céline and His Vision (New York: New York University Press, 1967), 21, from a letter by Ginsberg to Ostrovsky, 24 September 1965.

10 Bruce Jay Friedman, forward to Black Humor, ed. Friedman (New York: Bantam, 1965), viii.

11 Clark Blaise, interview with author, San Francisco, 27 December 1991. The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop was founded in Iowa City by poet Paul Engle in 1936, a time when the study of English in graduate schools was strictly scholarly, rather than creative, and when a Depression-era cultural agrarianism was spawning arts activities in small towns and rural areas. The writers’ workshop model established at Iowa proliferated to the point where by 1986 there were 150 graduate writing programs in the United States. Most major university English departments now offer creative writing at the undergraduate level. The influence of the Iowa Workshop on the writing and marketing of American fiction and poetry cannot be overestimated, given the prominence of the writers who have taught there and the highly developed network between workshop graduates and such periodicals as The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and Antaeus, which have launched the careers of many workshop writers. See Maureen Howard, "Can Writing be Taught in Iowa?" New York Times Sunday Magazine, 25 May 1986, 2.

12 The Writers Directory, 1990-1992, 9th ed. (Chicago: St. James Press, 1990).

13 The survey on Louis-Ferdinand Céline was developed in June 1991 in consultation with Henri Godard, Jean-Paul Louis, and Philippe Roussin as preparation for the conference "Céline: His American Presence," held at Duke University in November 1992. Jean-Paul Louis was also a valuable consultant. Andrea Loselle and Philip Watts helped compile the original list of writers. In the spring of 1992, Amy Allen statistically analyzed the surveys that had been returned; Rod Herrer designed the graphic display in fig. 1; Alden Bumstead assisted with follow-up research and annotation. I am grateful to the Duke University Research Council for funding this project.

14 Survey on Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961). All quotations not otherwise identified are drawn from the survey.

15 The Céline/Miller/Mailer triad figures in Vivian Gornick’s 1976 essay, "Why Do These Men Hate Women?" Céline’s "radiant poison," Gornick argues, was preferable to Miller and Mailer’s more mundane misogyny. See Vivian Gornick, Essays in Feminism (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), 189-90.

16 Wolfe also discussed the influence of Céline’s idiosyncratic language and "the dots": "I had my moments of dot-craziness in the 1970s, although I was already something of a cutup, I suppose, with punctuation, including multiple colons. I guess I overdid it at times, but on the whole I’ve considered Céline a very salutary influence."

17 Greil Marcus, Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of Cultural Obsession (New York: Doubleday, 1991).

18 See, in the French context, Henri Godard, Poétique de Céline (Paris: Gallimard, 1985). For a taxonomy of voice in American literature, see Marc Chenetier, "La Bouche et l’oreille," in Au delà du soupçon: la nouvelle fiction américaine de 1960 à nos jours (Paris: le Seuil, 1989), 321-64.

19 Clark Blaise, interview with author, San Francisco, 27 December 1991.

20 The original reads: "À vrai dire, en France, mon ‘Proust,’ c’est Céline! Voilà un très grand écrivain. Même si son antisémitisme en fait un être abject, intolérable. Pour le lire, je dois suspendre ma conscience juive, mais je le fais, car l’antisémitisme n’est pas au coeur de ses livres, même D’un château l’autre. Céline est un grand libérateur. Je me sens appelé par sa voix" (Philip Roth, interview with Jean-Pierre Salagas, La Quinzaine Littéraire, 16 June 1984, quoted in Henri Godard, Henri Godard Présente Voyage au bout de la nuit de Louis-Ferdinand Céline [Paris: Gallimard, 1991], 190).

21 Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Conversations with Professor Y, trans. Stanford Luce (Hanover, N. H.: University Press of New England, 1986). With the exception of Mea Culpa (for which there exists a 1937 translation by Little, Brown), the pamphlets are untranslated, out of print, and unavailable except in libraries.

One indication of the availability of Céline’s pamphlets in the United States is the number of copies listed by the on-line library system (OCLC), which lists the holdings of over 6,000 American libraries: Mea Culpa in English: 10 holdings for the first edition; 48 holdings for subsequent editions, and 85 holdings for a 1979 edition; Mea Culpa in French: 1 microfilm; 20 books; Bagatelles pour un massacre: 8 microfilm or photocopy holdings; 54 books; L’École des cadavres: 4 microfilm or photocopy holdings, 24 books; Les Beaux Draps: 1 microfilm, 23 books. These listings may overlap somewhat because of the different catalogers (Yale, Library of Congress, etc.) represented on the OCLC.

22 Saul Bellow, letter to the author, 9 August 1991.

23 Philip Roth, quoted in Godard, Henri Godard Présente, 190.

24 Herbert Jenkins to Louis-Ferdinand Céline, 24 January 1938, in Alice Kaplan, "Selling Céline: The Céline-Little, Brown Correspondence (1934-1938)," South Atlantic Quarterly 93 (spring 1994): 373-420. This volume of SAQ is a special issue, "Céline, USA," edited by Alice Kaplan and Phillipe Roussin.

25 Kenneth Rexroth, "The Hasidism of Martin Buber" (1959), in Rexroth, The World Outside the Window, 98.

26 Clark Blaise, interview with author, San Francisco, 27 December 1991.

27 Ibid.

28 The discovery of Céline makes perfect sense for a literary figure like Jack Kerouac, the French-Canadian boy from the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, whose trajectory ultimately took him not to Europe, but to the American West. Kerouac acknowledged his admiration for Céline in Jack Kerouac, "Interférences," in Cahiers de L’Herne, trans. Susan Beresford, ed. Dominique de Roux (Paris: Editions de L’Herne, 1963), 205-206.

29 See the text of the petition and the analysis of it by Philip Watts, "Céline’s Defense: Introduction," in "Céline, USA," South Atlantic Quarterly 93 (spring 1994): 523-29.

30 James Laughlin, New Directions in Prose and Poetry (New York: New Directions, 1946), xxii.

31 Henry Miller to Emil White, Hollywood, Saturday, 1942, quoted in Robert Ferguson, Henry Miller: A Life (New York: Norton, 1991), 308.

32 Michael Palmer, letter to author, 10 December 1991.



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