TED PELTON is the author of four books, including most recently the novella Bartleby, the Sportscaster. He is also the founder and publisher of Starcherone Books. “Woodchuck in Prison” is from The Trickster Woodchuck, a work-in-progress of linked stories, seven of which have appeared in the Brooklyn Rail since 2007.
I havent inquired recently into whether there have been new developments in the court masque, but a case can be made that no art form today is more conservative in its general formal tendencies than fiction writing. More demanding to consume than more passively experienced visual or aural art forms, and for the most part mass-produced by subsidiaries of entertainment conglomerates who more and more insist on bottom-line profits, so much fiction today is so plainly moribund that the truth is more interesting camp now has adherents even among creative writers themselves.
Here is another story of Woodchuck.
As we all know Woodchuck was a wanderer.
One day he came to the people in his wanderings and they noticed that his feet were covered with red oozing sores.
I will tell the story
God looked down
On the people and
the people were having
a bad time
because of the sportsmen
Woodchuck had been gone a very long time when he finally reappeared with a companion stranger than any creature the people had ever seen.
As Federman used to say when I was his student in the mid-80s that each of his books began with a sentence he heard in his head, here is a sentence for Federman, who last week, as he would also say, changed tense...
Woodchuck had a friend named Elk with whom he had adventures.
Once in his travels Woodchuck felt a bit tired and lay down to nap in a town where he knew no one and no one knew him.
If you have heard the stories of Woodchuck you know that Woodchuck was always losing his penis which he carried in a box but never locked. Once he lost his penis he went madly searching for it everywhere because he knew what trouble could result if he didnt find it.
Let us hear another story of Woodchuck.
One day in his travels Woodchuck saw a man whose western shirt was drenched in blood streaming also from his mouth.
In his teeth were small clumps of flesh and gore.
It was Hank Williams Zombie.