"Ayden brings a healthy original approach to the American novel. He is free of introspection. He well chooses his words."
— William Burroughs
"Ayden is one of the sexiest writers we have; because of his struggles with acquired language he has a vigor uncommon among our novelists; without the mannerist inclinations of Salinger, Pynchon, Barth, or Updike, he is able to convey the real trouble underneath the bizarre and the banal."
— Frank O'Hara
"Erje Ayden's novels provide a little-known but fascinating view of American bohemian and bourgeois society from the point of view of a sympathetically bemused Turkish observer. The wonder is that Ayden's not more famous, as he can be as addictive as Simenon or Proust."
— John Ashbery
"Ayden writes with nobility."
— Times Literary Supplement
CONFESSIONS OF A NOWADAY CHILD
A Novel by Erje Ayden
I came across a beat-up copy of this truly one-of-a-kind offbeat novel in a used bookstore a few months ago. I had never heard of the author Erje Ayden before but I bought the book based on the jacket blurb and the cover design. I was eventually able to track down Ayden's widow (and executor of his literary estate) who graciously gave me her permission to publish a new edition and rescue this unconventional literary gem from obscurity.
In short, Confessions of a Nowaday Child is a semi-autobiographical novel about a Turkish-born writer living in New York City's Greenwich Village during the late 1950s and early 1960s, with occasional flashbacks to his childhood in Istanbul, who makes a promise to himself "to become the greatest writer of the new American generation," despite the fact that he can barely speak or write in English.
As the original edition's jacket blurb states, "It's all here — how and why he did it — the incredible sexual adventures, the violence and the poetry of a tormented mind that has moments of great beauty, simplicity, joy. It's breathtaking in its arrogance, but strangely an affirmation of life, modern life, and the process of making it. The straight, cruddy reality and its rewards spelled out."
A brief biography of Erje Ayden
Erje Ayden was born Erce Aydiner in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1936. He began his high school studies at Robert College, a private American boys’ school in Istanbul where the language of instruction was English. He was expelled after two years, “unable to learn English,” according to the school’s administrator. In 1956, he moved to Greenwich Village in New York City where he took on a series of menial jobs and was eventually accepted into the bohemian art and literary circles, establishing close friendships with painter Willem de Kooning, poets Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, critic Seymour Krim, and playwright Paddy Chayefsky, among others.
In the early 1960s, Ayden began writing in English. His first book, the self-published collection titled The Harbor of Whales and Other Short Stories, “attracted some attention in 1963 as an imaginative start for a very young author grappling with his newly adopted language.” (Talat Halman, Princeton University) This was followed by the novel The Crazy Green of Second Avenue. Published in 1965, it quickly became an underground bestseller in New York City, selling out its first two printings of more than 10,000 copies in just a matter of weeks. A translation of The Crazy Green, along with his third novel, From Hauptbahnhof I Took a Train (1966), became the subject of an obscenity trial in his native Turkey in 2002. In defense of Ayden’s works, Marvin Taylor, Director of the Fales Library at New York University, provided the following statement to the court: “I believe Mr. Ayden’s work to be of the highest quality and essential for understanding the human condition in the late 20th century.” The books’ publisher, Bedri Baykam, was ultimately acquitted of all charges.
In a 2009 letter to Turkish writer Selçuk Altun, Ayden wrote that “from 1959 to 1984 [he] was a member of a certain NATO country’s counterespionage group in the United States [whose] job was to catch Soviet spies.” Certainly, spying figures prominently throughout Ayden’s later work. His 1972 novel, Sadness at Leaving: An Espionage Romance, relates the story of a European secret agent who, sent to New York City to track down and assassinate a defector, lives undercover as a writer and editor. Variety magazine reported in 1998 that a film adaptation of the novel, with Richard Gere in the lead role, was in development. However, it never came to fruition.
Ayden passed away in 2013. In his later years, he suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and incurable brain disorder. He is survived by his third wife, Elisabeth (Lisa) Holm, a Finnish-born textile designer with whom he spent the last 28 years of his life.
For more on Ayden, check out these two articles on the Poetry Foundation website:
Sadness at Leaving: Cult New York School Author, Spy & Friend Erje Ayden Dies at 77
About the book
The book will be printed in paperback format. It measures 5.8 x 8.3 inches (148 x 210 mm) and contains 116 pages.
Where the money will go
As with my previous Kickstarter projects, my goal is simply to break even and get the book out there. If this campaign is successful, the $600 raised will be just enough to purchase a bar code and an ISBN number, pay the printer's setup fees, pay Kickstarter's cut, and cover the cost of printing and shipping the copies needed to fulfill the pledges. Any pledges in excess of the goal will go towards printing review copies of the book that will be sent out to various newspapers, magazines, and literary websites.
About Tough Poets Press
Tough Poets Press is a one-person independent publisher of "rediscovered" literary fiction and non-fiction. Thanks to the generous support of the Kickstarter community, I have been able to publish seven titles to date:
What Are They All Waiting For? Stories, Poems & Essays (1944-1962) by Gil Orlovitz (2018)
Five Fictions by Marvin Cohen (2018)
Baseball as Metaphysics by Marvin Cohen (2017)
The Self-Devoted Friend (50th anniversary edition) by Marvin Cohen (2017)
Others, Including Morstive Sternbump (40th anniversary edition) by Marvin Cohen (2016)
Sarpedon: A Play by Gregory Corso (2016)
The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso (2015)
Risks and challenges
There are really no risks or challenges. This will be my eighth book published so I've got the process down to a science. With the exception of the acknowledgments page, which will be updated when this Kickstarter campaign has ended, the book is complete and ready to go to the printer.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (22 days)