"We were relegated to Chick Lit, romance novels, our subjects were love and motherhood and other sexually-defined things. Modern Love mocks that, to some degree. It pushes back."
Words disappear and reappear in the world all the time, and if one is a writer, one exists in part believing books have a cosmic timing all their own. Writer and artist Constance DeJong initially published her first major work, the novel Modern Love, in 1975–76. Serialized as five chapbooks, she designed, printed, and distributed it herself, then released a "proper book" through her own imprint, Standard Editions, the following year. She also performed the book—not as a reading or play, but as a kind of mark of narrative in time. Later, her texts spun into sound installations, audio objects, talking photographs, and other books. While DeJong continued to carve her very own space in literature and art, Modern Love fell out of print.
When I was first given a copy I must confess that the title turned me off. Kind of cheesy, I thought. After all, what's a more overwrought, exhausted subject for a novel—for anything, really—than love? And yet, I read it. And then, I loved it. The supple, groovy slipstream of her prose; the collapsing of time, voice, and genre; her recasting of the limited roles fictional characters are made to play. Now, in 2017, it seems nothing less than a masterpiece.
This month, Modern Love is being republished by Primary Information and Ugly Duckling Presse. For the occasion, DeJong and I spoke about the book's origin, and how language and text are central forces from which all of her many projects spin. Hybrid creators like her can be difficult to define, to name, and as we chatted, I told her I would try to come up with something, a way to describe her practice without the crutch of commas or hyphens or slashes. I still haven't found the right words—which, truth be told, says precisely everything about her.
[ Read More ]