19. AGNES & SALLY. New York, NY: The Fiction Collective, 1984. 5¾x9" 116 pages. (F)
Offset, smyth-sewn hardcover. Pink, black and blue dustjacket designed by Louise Hamlin. Warsh’s first published novel. Blurbs by Robert Creeley, Jonathan Cott, Barbara Guest, and Russell Banks. Author photo by Lorna Smedman.
“I’d written novels when I was much younger—now it was time to try again. I liked living in these small towns. Bernadette and I, when we had a car, would drive around and explore. The kids would fall asleep in the back seat. Or we’d all get out and stop at some anonymous diner. That’s the setting of this novel—a diner in some small town in the middle of nowhere. We kept returning to one specific place, but I’m not sure where. I started the book in Lenox, continued with it during the year we lived in Henniker, New Hampshire, and then finally finished it when we moved back to New York. In some of the chapters I used a split page, meaning two stories are going on at once. The upper part of the page is presumably the primary story, while the bottom half of the page is some kind of commentary that wanders off and creates a kind of new story on its own. It was risky, since it seemed like a very conventional type of experiment, but I think I pushed it to an extreme, and in a way that hopefully makes sense. My editors at The Fiction Collective were Rachel Salazar and Mark Leyner. The book is dedicated to Bernadette Mayer. I asked Robert Creeley for a blurb and he sent me six to choose from, something I won’t soon forget: ‘The unobtrusive powers of this extraordinary writer make a cautionary tale of all too familiar real lives. Meshed in a world of deadpan cliché, this world is forever all dressed up with no place to go. Mr. Warsh should be our next President. He really knows the People.’”