Richard Kostelanetz


Richard Kostelanetz is the taken name of a kibbutz/commune composed of fifty industrious elves, none of whom competes with any of the others, all of whom physically resemble each other, each known to the others only by the roman numeral visible on both the front and back of their t-shirt.

I writes straight prose exposition that appears in both articles and books.

II publishes verbal poetry and fiction in magazines around the world.

III drafts performance scripts, aka plays, that aren’t often produced.

IV creates electro-acoustic audio/music that has been broadcast widely and appeared on discs that are publicly available.

V experiments with alternative expositions such as this elves’ inventory.

VI produces book-art that is exhibited around the world and acknowledged in histories of that genre.

VII wrote more criticism of literature and the arts than he has recently.

VIII is a trained cultural historian who in 1966 took his M.A. at Columbia University with a thesis on “Politics in the Negro Novel in America” that later appeared as a book.

IX, after years of indolence, became a social historian, particularly of the societies of art and literature.

X, sometimes called ten, has published music journalism, mostly a while ago.

XI writes political criticism reflecting his libertarian anarchism.

XII, now retired, has edited anthologies of literature and criticism.

XIII made holograms, sometimes developing the film himself.

XIV tries in vain to housekeep the SoHo loft in which they have worked since 1974, forever urging the others to clean up behind themselves.

XV specializes in video whose kinetic imagery is usually words, mostly produced without benefit of a camera.

XVI has written travel articles, mostly about their hometown (New York City).

XVII enjoys baseball games, having written about the sport and producing an extended audiotape of and about its unique sound.

XVIII offers to ambitious aspirants not office work but project-centered internships rewarding them primarily with their name on the completed product.

XIX has taught in universities, though never for long.

XX represents the others whenever a lady calls.

XXI practices radical autohistoriography, representing his life and activities in a variety of alternative ways.

XXII reads a book or so every day to compensate for the others’ illiteracy.

XXIII founded in the 1970s the innovative publishing medium now commonly known as an Assembling and ran Assembling Press for a decade.

XXIV gives alternative silent presentations in lieu of “poetry readings.”

XXV, a popular guest at New York dinner parties, eats everything presented to him.

XXVI has been since 1974 a SoHo (NY) bon vivant particularly visible at art openings.

XXVII satisfies women as only he can, prompting them to recommend him, if only implicitly, to each other.

XXVIII is the only elf accepting invitations to travel elsewhere as the others would all prefer to stay in their home, their neighborhood, their city, and their country in that order.

XXIX sometimes designs books with his own texts, one of them appearing in the annual exhibition of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

XXX is the oldest guy bodysurfing in the NYC Rockaways.

XXXI handled paper correspondence until a decline in the gross amount forced him into semi-retirement; he never learned email.

XXXII does nothing each day other that send and receive emails.

XXXIII never emerges from his elfhole, perhaps cooking up a scheme to take over the cultural world.

XXXIV, chief of research and development, writes proposals too far forward to anyone in the present to accept soon.

XXXV screens telephone calls that the others are too busy to accept.

XXXVI has won ten individual grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, in addition to fellowships from a dozen or so private foundations.

XXXVII was for three weeks the Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

XXVIII is an award-winning ASCAP composer who can barely read music.

XXXIX has been awarded guest residencies at radio stations, electronic music studies, video synthesis facilities, art departments, and a museum of holography.

XL persuaded the others to produce their single-sentence Epiphanies as texts for periodicals and live performance, a book, an audiotape, a videotape, a film, and an exhibition—in sum, a mammoth collaboration exploiting a collective wealth of imaginative resources.

XLI collects historic postcards of the NYC Rockaways and cultural magazines’ self-retrospectives.

XLII edited the journal Precisely (1978-81) with considered criticism about avant-garde literature.

XLIII is their shrink- and mother-in-residence whom the others regard as a goof-off.

XLIV describes himself as their “agent” whenever he leaves their compound mostly to scavenge food.

XLV engages in secret speculations to subsidize the others; his nickname is SuperElf.

XLVI produced literature and art wholly of numerals.

XLVII, charged with cataloging their collection of more than 30 running feet of long-playing records and more than 20,000 books, is rarely able to find anything.

XLVIII is the oldest guy regularly diving off the springboard at the NYU pool; in his sixties, he also won a 400 meter butterfly race that no one else entered.

XLIX tries in vain to keep track of the others, pretending to be the captain of a team that does not follow him.

L, commonly called “El Elf” or “Elf El,” ostensibly responsible for publicizing their activities, has conned the world, apparently successfully, into regarding RK as really a single human entity.

Editor's Note.
There is, apparently, another elf, LI, whose task it is to write bio notes of varying lengths in response to editors' requests. I received eight bio notes for consideration — bold bio note pyramids, bio notes of varying lengths & intentions, bio notes kept in a Cage, bio notes which reference other bio notes, & the above, which, although it has appeared elsewhere, is my preferred one.

I have since received a missive from another elf confirming that the bio notes are all LI's. M. Y.
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