Double or Nothing

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Double or Nothing [Paperback]

Raymond Federman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1999
Double or Nothing is a concrete novel in which the words become physical materials on the page. Federman gives each of these pages a shape or structure, most often a diagram or picture. The words move, cluster, jostle, and collide in a tour de force full of puns, parodies, and imitations. Within these startling and playful structures Federman develops two characters and two narratives. These stories are simultaneous and not chronological. The first deals with the narrator and his effort to make the book itself; the second, the story the narrator intends to tell, presents a young man's arrival in America. The narrator obsesses over making his narrative to the point of not making it. All of his choices for the story are made and remade. He tallies his accounts and checks his provisions. His questioning and indecision force the reader into another radical sense of the novel. The young man, whose story is to be told, also emerges from his obsessions.

Madly transfixing details—noodles, toilet paper, toothpaste, a first subway ride, a sock full of dollars—become milestones in a discovery of America. These details, combined with Federman's feel for the desperation of his characters, create a book that is simultaneously hilarious and frightening. The concrete play of its language, its use of found materials, give the viewer/reader a sense of constant and strange discovery. To turn these pages is to turn the corners of a world of words as full as any novel of literary discourse ever presented. Double or Nothing challenges the way we read fiction and the way we see words, and in the process, gives us back more of our own world and our real dilemmas than we are used to getting.

Picked for American Book Review's 100 Best First Lines from Novels

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Editorial Reviews


"Double or Nothing is fashioned with enough genuine literary skill to place it among the great experimental novels of all time."
—Library Journal

"Invention of this quality ranks the book among the fictional masterpieces of our age..."
—Richard Kostelanetz, author of The End of Intelligent Writing and The Old Fictions & the New

"Federman takes the novel to the point of obsessive, ultimate reflexiveness—and against all the odds of logic in fiction, Double or Nothing works like a charm...Somehow, in this furious and comic scheme, every distraction is an enrichment, and the processes of choice—played with infinite fancifulness upon the page—are the lovely geometry of personal assertion. Typography becomes typology; our hero becomes a citizen."

—Marcus Klein, author of After Alienation and Foreigners

About the Author

Raymond Federman was born in 1928 in France. His novels have been translated into fourteen languages and include Smiles on Washington Square, winner of the American Book Award. He lives in San Diego.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Fiction Collective 2; 1st Edition edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573660752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573660754
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best experimental novels out there May 26, 1998
The structure of this book is ingeniuous - it's a guy writing a book about a guy writing a book about a 19 year old French Jewish boy coming to the US after his family is killed in the camps in WW2. This means you're immersed in this obsessive story about a guy planning on boying 365 days' worth of toilet paper and noodles and locking himself in a room to write, while the story about the kid is unrolled bit by bit, changed, modified, and improved. The typeography is all over the place, making the confusion even more profound by drawing things with the text, switching fonts, spacing, etc. There's a lot of humor in the obsession of the fictional writer, and the index/discourse at the end of the book is a killer. The writing puts it over the top, but the structure - the whole idea - is one of a kind.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing reprint of classic August 8, 2007
This is a terrific book, clever and rollicking and inventive and funny and haunting and all those good adjectives. But this edition is terribly disappointing; the text is set in a proportional font, which makes all the "concrete" games and shapes look cheesy. The pages (spoiler alert?) where the text is run together with no spaces between the words, for instance, are significantly easier to read in this edition, and a great deal is lost because of it. Try to hunt down a copy of the first (1971) edition if you can; this edition is a dim shadow of that one. (Hence the 4 stars -- really I'd give this edition much less but it is a five star book and a poor job of keeping it in print is better than none at all.)
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely fascinating genial eye-and-mindboggling October 20, 1998
By A Customer
my review is short -- a line from a great poem by w.b. yeats: how can you tell the dancer from the dance
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