with an introduction by Mike Heppner
Release Date: May 29, 2012
eBook Price: $7.99
What if the private detective you might pay to find someone long gone thinks to hire you, or money lent for him gets spent on home improvement; or if relations among a group of friends and lovers go on not so much too long as in new angles to exchange poignant energies even of ending? Is it literally some chemistry we’re in or motion with its partial randomness?
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
In conversation with Joseph McElroy, I once described his short novel Preparations for Search in genre terms as "noir-core," in which the conventions of noir are flattened and compressed into dense, jet-black space, a gravitational singularity. As unprecedented as McElroy's work appears at first glance, he's also not afraid to use the familiar forms of genre to put forth his vision. Hind's Kidnap is, at heart, a detective story. Plus? File under science fiction. Lookout Cartridge offers more than a little something to fans of John le Carré. Even later stories like "Night Soul" engage in coy flirtations with genre; in this case, the fairy tale. McElroy's 2003 novel Actress in the House has a set-up straight out of Raymond Chandler: complex and alluring young woman entices older man (not actually a detective, but functionally so) to help her out of a jam.
There's a sense of noir in Preparations for Search as well, "noir" as defined by George Tuttle as a subcategory of hardboiled detective fiction in which "the protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator." Amateur sleuths abound in McElroy, from the titular Hind in Hind's Kidnap to Jim Mayn in Women and Men (again, not an actual detective but a kind of investigative journalist whose freelance sleuthing propels a good portion of the book). One could say that McElroy, in both his novels and short fiction, invites us to become sleuths as we plunder, decode, hypothesize about and interrogate his information-rich narratives.
But what makes Preparations for Search "noir-core" is McElroy's approach to tempo and tone. Here the prose is so tightly wound—the pace accelerated to two-hundred beats-per-minute—that what we're left with is the structural essence of noir without the flabby clichés. Begun in the early-Eighties when the author was chest-deep at work on his 1987 masterpiece Women and Men, an early version of Preparations for Search was intended as part of Women and Men but pulled at the last minute, and except for a hush-hush appearance in Formations in 1984 (again, in nascent form), the narrative remained out of the public eye until Small Anchor Press published a limited run in 2010. This is the same text you have before you now.
"...the text knows what it means to be excised from a former home (Women and Men). Which would mean that the anxious, anguished, coastal drawing on the front is an accurate portrait of the contents of the text, which is coastal in the sense that it constitutes an outline of a shore which is otherwise impossible to measure. Which would mean that Preparations for Search is fractal, or infinitely subdivisible, as McElroy's sentences often are..." —Golden Handcuffs
"...[cut from Women and Men before publication in 1987] Preparations for Search gives evidence that... there are unities and ideas of completion that have nothing to do with length, and which instead make the case that certain material has to go, and yet this material, whether germane to the narrative trajectory of the whole is still somehow, by virtue of the man's style, breathtaking and electrifying, despite the fact that it reveals its vintage in details (telephones, answering machines, an absence of computers), and thus the excision is as invigorating as the most refreshing voice we are likely to encounter in the firmament of the present." —Rick Moody
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph McElroy is the author of nine novels, including A Smuggler's Bible, Hind's Kidnap. A Pastoral on Familiar Airs, Ancient History: A Paraphase, Lookout Cartridge, Plus, Women and Men, The Letter Left to Me, Actress in the House, and Cannonball (forthcoming). A volume of short fiction, Night Soul and Other Stories, has also been published. A volume of his essays, Exponential, was published in Italy (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2003). McElroy was the recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ingram Merrill Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught at Columbia, Temple, Queens College of the City University of New York and NYU, among other universities. He currently lives in New York City. Written as one of the last sections of the novel Women and Men, "Preparations for Search" was first published in the magazine Formations (Spring 1984). It was cut from Women and Men before the novel went to press in 1987. The Small Anchor Press text is slightly changed from the original Formations text.
Mike Heppner is the author of the novels The Egg Code and Pike’s Folly, and the short fiction collection The Man Talking Project.