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The State of California: Growing Up Foreign in the Backyards of Eden – Ted Pejovich

Portions of Ted Pejovich’s memoir, The State of California (1989), first appeared in The Quarterly. An elegant narrative about childhood and the stigma of the emigrant, it was panned and ignored by critics. It opens with a two-page-long sentence. One chapter, “What My Uncle Said,” is an imposing 10-page-long single sentence that brings to mind Lish’s My Romance and Zimzum in its efforts to twist language and take the sentence as far as it can go.

Publisher’s Weekly said:

In conveying the dislocation felt by his large family after leaving Montenegro to settle in the promised land of California, the author of this elegiac memoir employs a meditative, free-flowing style that is not without its drawbacks. As communicated in colloquially serpentine sentences, Pejovich’s bilingual heritage is intriguing initially but eventually becomes tiresome: his euphoric litanies of daily details defeat their purpose, generalizing instead of heightening the impact of experience. Growing up betwixt the romantically remembered past and the undeniable present, living among the immigrant farmers of the Santa Clara Valley, was a heady experience for a boy–and seems to have gone to the writer’s head. Yet, despite excesses in style, Pejovich, an actor in New York, succeeds in evoking his family’s exuberant loyalty to two worlds.

It is uncertain where Lish found Pejovich — through class, or slushpile submission?  Pejovich also seems to have disappeared, only having published this one book. A shame, too, as the prose mastery in this memoir is beguiling.

We will see a pattern of the one book wonders (and failures) through Lish, or writers who don’t publish another book or story for many years after their one Knopf.  It makes us wonder…were they damaged goods?

But wait, dear boys and girls with your Lishy ears and minimalist eyes!  There seems to be a character actor named Ted Pejovich, with a a decent resume of theater, TV and film credits, age 65 — would be the right age.

Is he the same name and face?


5 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Quarterly #5 (Spring 1988) « Gordon Lish Edited This

  2. I am pleased to announce that Mr. Pejovich has tentatively agreed to be the dramaturdge and scene developer for JumboTanz’s newest production “Frankensteiniana” with music by Grofe and Krenek, with a ragtime nod to Chopin.
    JumboTanz is that company for the truly Large Dancers that has performed to such universal acclaim for the crowned heads and pols.

  3. Prince Olatunji

    This news disturbs. I am to be the choreographic inspiratorial for the big dancing of frankenstinianna.

    I am not knowing this dramturdg. Who is.

    Is he the mans as is as actor??

  4. Hello There,
    This topic is entertainingly interesting. Might you reveal how one might contact this Jumbotanz troupe, and/or Mr. Pejovich, the dramaturg, or the disputacious Sr Wambeesi?

    This company has been rumoured of for years, apparently only performing ‘privately” for state heads and their selects. This statistic is, in and of itself, a perhaps simply quirky necessary condition or, rather more interestingly, a darkly entertaining preferred concept. I perhaps reveal a bit of my own humours in that reference, but, but.




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