Imagine that Tom Robbins, Thomas Pynchon and Michael Moorcock got together in the 70s and decided to write a book together. Now imagine that, while they were thinking about calling Vonnegut to help, Robert Anton Wilson persuaded them to submit the final draft to Borges for approval instead. That’s what Whittemore’s books read like. Exuberant, caleidoscopic, psychedelic meditations on history and time, politics and the human condition.
I’d written this on a message board some years ago and I still stand by it, so I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question, fruitlessly, for some years now. Why are Whittemore’s novels, as rich a body of work as we’re ever likely to get, out of print and out of mind? When, after years of looking for one, I found a tattered second-hand copy of Sinai Tapestry, after reading it, I felt so elated that I ctually mailed it to a friend in the US to read, as a present!!! I felt the need to share what, to me, was one of the most important and enjoyable works of fiction I’d ever read.
If his writing was more experimental or intricate, would he have joined Pynchon and DeLillo up there, in the land of the holy monsters? Was it the fault of his pubisher, who didn’t market his books properly? Critical reception was enthusiastic, yet the public remained uninterested. Whittemore still has champions like Jeff Vandermeer, Paul DiFilippo or Erik Davis, but the publishing world seems to have forgotten about him completely and utterly. The Old Earth Books editions remain out of print and second-hand copies can only be found at extortionate prices. In the US, if you’re lucky, you might find them in libraries, but, alas, not in Europe…
Anyway, people, if you have an in with a publisher, write them, call them, pester them continuously, until someone finally buys the rights and makes Whitttemore’s novels available again. They’re more timely now than ever.