Ugly Duckling Presse

Modern Love
Modern Love

Constance DeJong

Fiction | $18 $14
Spring 2017
Buy"...a forgotten classic of narrative prose innovation."
Constance DeJong's long-neglected, late-1970s novel, Modern Love, is one thing made up of many: It's science-fiction. It's a detective story. It is a historical episode in the time of the Armada and the dislocation of Sephardic Jews from Spain to an eventual location in New York’s lower east side. It is a first person narrator’s story; Charlotte’s story; and Roderigo’s; and Fifi Corday’s. It is a 150 year old story about Oregon and the story of a house in Oregon. Modern Love’s continuity is made of flow and motion, like an experience, it accumulates, as you read, at that moment, through successive moments, right to the end.

An important figure of downtown New York's performance art and burgeoning media art scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, DeJong designed Modern Love herself and published it with help from Dorothea Tanning on the short-lived Standard Editions imprint. Critically acclaimed in its time, Modern Love is now back in print exactly 40 years since its original publication. Co-published with Primary Information.

Excerpt ˇ


Everywhere I go I see losers. Misfits like
myself who can’t make it in the world. In
London, New York, Morocco, Rome, India,
Paris, Germany. I’ve started seeing the same
people. I think I’m seeing the same people. I
wander around staring at strangers thinking I
know you from somewhere, I don’t know
where. The streets are always crowded and
narrow, full of men. It’s always night and all
strangers are men.

I hear talk of a new world Everywhere I go:
eco-paleo-psycho-electro-cosmo talk. Of course,
men do all the talking. I don’t get the mes-
sage, my ears ache; my eyes are falling out,
I don’t see these street talkers as the mak-
ers of a new world. Anyway, they’re not
real losers. And the new world’s an old dream.

They said, “Wait till you’re 27 then you’ll be
sorry.” I’m 27. I’m not sorry.Close ˆ

About the Author

Constance DeJong
Well-known for her contributions to downtown New York's performance art and media art scene of the 1970s and '80s, and considered one of the progenitors of media art, or “time-based media,” Constance DeJong has worked for over three decades on narrative form within the context of avant-garde music and contemporary art. DeJong’s writing extends off the page through the body, resonating out of objects and into the space of the theater. DeJong extends her prose writing into multiple forms— performances, audio installations, print texts, electronic objects, and audio and video works. In 1983, DeJong composed the libretto for the Philip Glass opera Satyagraha. Since 1983, she has collaborated with Tony Ourlser on numerous performance and video works. DeJong has also been a writing collaborator with The Builder’s Association on SuperVision, 2005. Her books include Modern Love, I.T.I.L.O.E., and SpeakChamber and her work is included in the anthologies Up is Up, But So is Down: Downtown Literary Scene (NYU Press), Blasted Allegories (New Museum/MIT), and Wild History (Tanam). She is a recipient of awards from NYSCA for Media Production, NYFA for New Genres, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Media Production, among others. She has exhibited and performed both locally and internationally at venues such as the Walker Art Museum, the Wexner Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in New York at The Kitchen, Threadwaxing Space, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Dia Center for the Arts. DeJong teaches at Hunter College for the MFA and BA in Fine Arts.

Advance Praise

In the 1970s, Constance DeJong’s Modern Love played a critical role in Downtown’s invention of post-modernism. How?  By transporting us to other states of being, we got to visit Soho, Elizabethan England, and India.  Why is this book considered part of the visual art world?  Because everyone was doing everything — and Modern Love exactly captured its time.—Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace
Written between 1975-1977 from the heart of New York City's art world, Constance DeJong's Modern Love is a forgotten classic of narrative prose innovation. Working largely alone, DeJong invented a narrative form that's at once intimate and highly constructed. Wilder than the French nouveau roman, Modern Love cannibalizes genre and realist fiction and travels through time to explore the dilemma of being a 27-year-old broke female loser who's told by the culture that she's "free to say and do anything I want". A powerful influence on her contemporary Kathy Acker, DeJong's Modern Love feels even more radical now than it did when it first came out."—Chris Kraus
Modern Love is a post-modern classic, finally back in print. The classic cover, in fact, may mislead the reader, much the way DeJong's narrative guides and misguides the reader. The language is beautiful. The whole thing is brilliant.—Anne Turyn
A touch cut-up-like crazy quilt of patches that seem to come from historic novels (the Armada), “modern Romances,” and personal confessions from the new-wave world. In fact, DeJong writes with an easy grace, low key and precise. The shifts from persona to personal, or from first person to third, or even from the present to some historical event, seem unformulistic. In fact, when they work they seem natural, which is a tremendous accomplishment with this kind of writing. DeJong is one of the best of the new writers that emerged along with the new music, etc. from the mid-seventies scenes only now gaining recognition.—Michael Lally, Washington Review
…if her (DeJong’s) relation to standard linear narrative has been less than conventional and her willingness to forego the novel format in favor of a wide variety of expanded media has been consistently experimental, her efforts constitute not so much a rejection of the inherited forms of fiction as a desire to bring them into the context of late 20th-century experience.—Carlo McCormick, Paper
DeJong is a storyteller from some pre-Homeric era when all tales were polished by their repeated public telling—a conceit of course: her work is written but it has the quality of having grown out of recitation. To listen to her is to be seduced.—Ann Sargent-Wooster, Soho Weekly New