Harold Jaffe's docufiction

Harold Jaffe's Published Docufiction

Thirty years ago or so, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, and some other "journalists" set about deliberately melding journalistic "fact" with fiction; the suggestion was that this is what mainstream journalism was doing without acknowledgement, so they (Wolfe and Thompson) would foreground the melding.

As I and many others (Paul Virilio and Jean Baudrillard, for example) see it, the usurpation of "fact" has moved very rapidly, even exponentially, along with the almost total reliance on technology. Information becomes disinformation without apology; one datum contradicts a previous datum posted a few hours before; medical technology makes no distinction between the "artificial" and the "natural." For example, when Janet Jackson's wardrobe "malfunctioned" a few years ago during the Super Bowl halftime show and a "breast" was exposed, the institutionalized media went wacky, but nobody pointed out that it wasn't her 45-year-old breast at all but rather the expensive surgically implanted "artificial" nubile breast that was briefly exposed.

Before the techno-cult became omnipotent there was at least a nominal distinction made between the "real" and the image or mask. Now, the cynicism is such that virtually everything depends on the efficacy of the mask. The notion of sincerity and authenticity (in Lionel Trilling's words) simply has no purchase.

Hence, my use of docufiction attempts to ape the mainstream culture while deconstructing it; the deconstruction is what puzzles less discerning readers, who don't see the pastiche element, don't see the deliberate exaggeration and "hyper-reality."

How does this make the reader feel? Disconcerted, I hope. With Brecht (contra Aristotle), I'd like my reader to come away from having read my work pent rather than purged; with troubled questions on his or her mind, rather than feeling virtuous after his vicarious catharsis.

This page features Harold Jaffe's docufictions, including sample chapters and stories. To read more about his fictions and nonfictions, follow the links on this page.

Purchase any book by Harold Jaffe thru the link. (Purchasing from this website defrays the site's expenses.) To purchase an autographed copy from the author, email Harold Jaffe.



Harold Jaffe's newest book Death Café will be published by Anti-Oedipus Press in late 2015.


Death Café resumes and refines Harold Jaffe's ongoing anatomy of the world in pain. Featuring nineteen innovative fictions and docufictions set in Africa, Europe, China India, the Middle East and the benighted USA, the collection explores issues of global warming, political defiance, committed art-making, dream space, and speculative discourse. As always, Jaffe works his literary voodoo in variable tonalities, each with perfect pitch, uncannily formulated, with unequal (of necessity) doses of razor-edged satire and compassion.


Death Café will be available through Amazon and Powell's Books. Please check back with us for updates.



Harold Jaffe's semi-sequel to his Anti-Twitter, called Induced Coma: 50 & 100-Word Stories, was published by Anti-Oedipus Press in 2014.

Purchase from Powell's Books

Purchase from Amazon

The press release for Induced Coma can be seen here.

Harold Jaffe spoke with WIPs, Works (of fiction) in Progress, about Induced Coma: 50 and 100 Word Stories. Take a look at the interview here as well as an excerpt from Induced Coma


(JEF Books, 2012)

Od: Docufictions
by Harold Jaffe

Each of Harold Jaffe's 16 docufictions features a well-known personage who either died of an overdose or was invested in "drugs" to the extent that they contributed to his/her death. Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Bela Lugosi, Aldous Huxley, Freud, Poe, Walter Benjamin, Lead Belly, Diane Arbus, Mark Rothko, Sonny Liston, Jim Morrison, Abbie Hoffman, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Jones, Jean Seberg, and Janis Joplin are among the featured. High culture and pop. Dead and ghostly. The narrative dance that Jaffe performs with these apparitions is unexpected, intricate, brilliant in every register.

"Jaffe's docufictional style, in its subversion of a traditional notion of genre, reflects this defiance of expectation by utilizing a form that is closer in spirit to a sort of free verse poetry than it is to a standard form of fiction. In fact, Jaffe's style, structure and literary disposition are evocative of another forward-thinking American non-conformist, Walt Whitman." -- Web del Sol

"Jacques Derrida famously commented that 'if mourning works, it does so only to dialectize death.' Jaffe's OD is a work of mourning that works. The moment of death for him sets in motion a powerfully eerie postmodern dialectic on some of the twentieth-century's most celebrated artists and writers." -- Jeffrey R. Di Leo

"After injecting these docufictions directly into my bloodstream, I was hooked. Who but Jaffe could reveal a synergy between Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Mother Teresa. OD should come with a warning: Lethal." -- Derek Pell

"Manson. Twitter. Serial Killers. Terrorism. Sex. Like a clairvoyant and prophetic doctor, Harold Jaffe has 'treated' them all. With his latest book, OD, he tackles addiction, and the remedy is miraculous. One by one, Jaffe takes a buzz saw to the false crutches of contemporary culture. He succeeds spectacularly." -- Larry Fondation

If a potential reader wants a signed copy for the regular price, email me and I will sign it and ship it to you.


Paris 60
(Journal of Experimental Fiction (JEF Books), 2012)

Paris 60
by Harold Jaffe

The entries that constitute Paris 60 were recorded daily during my Spring 2008 Paris visit to greet the translation into French of 15 Serial Killers. Based loosely on Baudelaire's Paris Spleen, 1896, Paris 60 is both factual and fictionalized. Baudelaire was Parisian. Although a frequent visitor, usually for professional reasons, Jaffe is a self-acknowledged outsider to Paris, and his texts are written from that position. Here are some excerpts from Paris 60:

3.29 Oyster

More than two years since I saw him last, the Moroccan-French waiter in the small oyster bar near the St Paul métro stop in the Marais.

Recognize each other at once, shake hands.

After I speak friendly words he corrects my French.

Even the pissed-on ex-colonized are language pedants in Paris.

Never mind the Starbucks-McDonalds low-grade infection, Parisian cuisine is comme toujours, but expensive, and the dollar, formerly king, is not just shit, but reeks of it.

Maghreb French boys do the hip-hop thing -- rhythmic walk, sideways cap, gang-banger hand-signals.

Hand-signal -- the other hand strokes the mobile.

Myself, aimlessly walking, Baudelaire's flaneur, post-millennium, sans hashish.

Sidestepping shoppers, not catching an eye, nearly everyone tonguing their mobile.

Pause at a café for a Pastis.

No more colorful Gitanes or Gauloises packets laid on the cafe table.

Unexpectedly, the French have followed the US anti-smoking route, even as the streets and highways are congested, polluted.

Ah, but the métro is still a Cartesian marvel of efficiency.

Underpaid transit workers are threatening to strike.

In solidarity with university students who now pay more for less.

The strikers will ritually take over the streets.

In this 40th anniversary, books on the student almost-revolution in May 68 are prominently displayed in the bookstore windows.

No correspondence between Soixante-huit and Sarko's current repression.

Régis Debray, onetime revolutionary who fought with Che in Bolivia, has published his memoirs to critical acclaim.

They too are featured in bookstores.

Debray has rotated 180 degrees and now despises Che, Fidel, Mao.

Scion of a high-toned French family, Debray is proud to have finally acknowledged his birthright.

Revolution, even in this country of Communards, has devolved into a noun like "archeology" or "Social Darwinism."

4.2 Toilet

The French struck gold with the bidet, but now it's time to move on.

Show a hetero American male a bidet and he'll laugh or try to shit in it.

Enter a typical French café and the toilet is likely to be down among the catacombs.

Where it's not the squatting-on-your heels contraption, miserably close to your dung and the dung of those who squatted before you, it is a toilet without a seat and likely without toilet paper.

I am a claustrophobe.

Unlike Sarko, je suis grand.

In one of the old cafes near République, I squeezed my way down into the basement toilet which was about the size of the coffin in the 1988 Dutch-French film The Vanishing.

As I was using the clownishly loud dryer to blow my hands dry, I heard a sptttt, the dryer shorted, suddenly it was black as Hades.

The space was so tight I could scarcely turn around.

Moreover I forgot where on the door the lock was, which I spasmodically felt around for with both hands.

Next I was violently shaking and kicking the door, shouting, swearing, not in English but in "American" -- as the French put it.

Finally I more or less pulled myself together.

Remembered that the lock was a sliding bolt close to the top of the door.

Slid it open, bent my head, left.

Parisians make a point of being too smooth to acknowledge deviation, but the patrons turned to me questioningly as I climbed the stairs.

They had to have heard the racket I was making.

Under my breath I muttered: You're lucky.

I could be one of those American mass murderers -- in which case your Parisian asses would be escargot.

4.15 Deep River

Listening to Vivaldi's Stabat Mater on my iPod as I reprise yesterday evening with new friends.

This version of Stabat Mater features the Japanese contralto Naoko Ihara, which in turn reminds me of the Japanese Christian Shusaku Endo's last novel Deep River, about a group of Japanese pilgrims traveling to the holy Hindu city of Varanasi.

It is the homely, seemingly misbegotten Japanese who makes the final offering, carrying the dead and dying "untouchables" to the River Ganges so their immolated ashes might merge with those who came before and were yet to come.

Ynez and Guillaume Deveraux live in a spacious apartment on the top floor of a Haussmann-era building directly across from the Montparnasse Cemetery.

The apartment was donated rent-free for as long as Ynez continued her employment as manager in the state-run Ministry of Health.

Her husband Guillaume is an artist with a cramped studio in the apartment.

At my request he shows me electronic representations of his work -- impressive abstracts which resemble both Action Painting and the calligraphic paintings of Mark Tobey, who studied Buddhism in Japan.

They have two daughters, Celeste 11, and Marie-Jeanne 3. Celeste has Down syndrome and is a grand mal epileptic, though she hasn't suffered a seizure in nearly a year.

I meet Ynez for the first time downstairs by the elevator, 7:30 PM.

Slender, attractive, somewhat tense, she is only now returning from her job; I am the invited guest.

When we arrive in the apartment, Marie-Jeanne runs to greet her mother then stops as she looks up at the large stranger.

I stoop low to greet her and she kisses me on both cheeks.

Ynez then goes to the sofa in front of the bay window where Celeste is sprawled with her head turned to the side and the foot of a rubber doll in her mouth.

Ynez sits and takes Celeste in her arms, whispering tenderly to her.

I sit on the same sofa.

Guillaume enters, shakes my hand, kisses Ynez, smoothes Celeste's hair, then picks up the three-year-old who is staring at me with a wild surmise.

Guillaume pours the red wine but Ynez is still caressing and whispering to Celeste.

Meanwhile, Marie-Jeanne has carried over her small, red and gold tin box and is making offerings to me.

She places a tiny pink bead in my palm, then an orange ribbon, then a chestnut, a silver bead, a very small bit of jade, another ribbon, a feather.

She delivers them one by one, carefully selecting from her box.

She has created an impressive still-life in my wide palm.

After nearly an hour of quiet talking, Celeste, who had not even turned her head to me, suddenly leans all her weight on me, reaches back and takes my hand which she grasps firmly.

Noting this, Marie-Jeanne settles her tiny self on my knee.

Ynez smiles.

She, the mother, looks lovely and weary.

The late sun slanting through the bay window lights her eyes and forehead.


As the freedoms of the world eroded, and as artists were systematically silenced at home, a hopeless, angry melancholy is an honest, heartfelt response. Paris 60, like a tuning fork, touches on this note, over and over, and applies it to our elbows and knees, making us react. Our arms and legs come to life in response. We are activated by the strength of Jaffe's prose and the acuity of his observations. To be a responsible reader, you must read Paris 60. You are still permitted to write and paint and dance as you wish because a few brave artists like Jaffe stood their ground and said, "never again."

-- Eckhard Gerdes, author of Cistern Tawdry and My Landlady the Lobotomist

Paris 60, Harold Jaffe's brilliant, revelatory sequence of meditations (essays, fictions, rose poems) about Paris as he found it in 2008, is an essential guidebook for today's true travelers to the City of Lights. There won't be a better book by a US writer published in 2010. It should be praised, studied, bought by the truckload.

-- Tom Whalen

I did not think an American writer could startle me with his wry insights into French culture (in the broadest arc from food and erotic deviation to contemporary philosophy and Parisian bucal contortions) but Harold Jaffe does! Particularly startling is the sudden eruption -- through the lucid, impeccable essay surface -- of fictional characters and events, as though these could no longer be held back, making of Jaffe doubtlessly one of our most original essayists.

-- Alain Arias-Misson


Anti-Twitter: 150 50-Word Stories
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, February 2010)

From Raw Dog Screaming Press: Anti-Twitter. Harold Jaffe's 150 50-word stories are based on "found" texts from mainstream news sources and other public sites which Jaffe reconstitutes so that their subtexts are outed and the stories are turned against themselves into a critical commentary on our degraded epoch.

Anti-Twitter's extreme brevity demonstrates by example that brief need not = dumbed-down. The stories describe a wide arc: high and pop culture, intimate and public, sordid and exalted; with Jaffe's perfect pitch and broad erudition acutely at play.

Faruk Ulay of Locus Novus posted six of the stories from my collection on his site. They are beautifully-rendered.

Here are a few sample stories from Anti-Twitter. In addition, here is a link to a review of Anti-Twitter.


Pakistan's supreme judge demanded a hearing into the flogging of an adolescent girl, videotaped and displayed on YouTube. The video shows an alleged Taliban flogging the girl with chains while she shrieks in pain.

US analysts insist this marks an advance.

Previously, Taliban beheaded females accused of un-Islamic behavior.

Dead Wired

Online social networks are crucial to our lives and increasingly crucial when we die.

An industry has emerged to deal with online contacts after death.

Through a site called Deathswitch, humans post posthumous emails, announcements on online social networks, and send text messages.

Current cost: $16 per month.


About opium, Jean Cocteau, himself addicted, suggested chemists modify its toxicity while salvaging the euphoria.

Were cannabis legalized, it would become, like Marlboros, overpriced, with carcinogenic additives for extended shelf life.

Meanwhile the real shit, strong and safe, that amateurs grow would remain, like bootleg liquor, subject to prosecution.

A German

and his Italian girlfriend abandoned her three children at a cafe in the northern town of Aosta, after ordering them a pizza.

They left the cafe, supposedly for a cigarette, but never returned.

Later the German tried, unsuccessfully, to hang himself with his belt in the railroad toilet.


In Anti-Twitter, Harold Jaffe Works at the eruption point, where life in its raw fissiparity spews and proliferates story. Anger, astonishment, and outrage explode in bursts of savage irony. Jaffe excorcises the psychotic banal with a hot courage that is profoundly moral.

-- Patricia Eakins

The ephemeral world-wide chatter of Twitter is here bathed in Harold Jaffe's insidious acid, as another current language is accosted, insulted through example, and rendered absurd. Comic, at times frightening, pathetic, often ridiculous, these 150 Anti-Twitters stand against common currency of the form, become a cultural document of their own, no less than the hum of the word's turnings. Once again Jaffe proves himself a master of subversion.

-- Toby Olson


Jesus Coyote
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008)

Jesus Coyote
by Harold Jaffe

From Raw Dog Screaming Press: Jesus Coyote, a novel based on the Manson "family."

Building on the mayhem generated by his controversial but critically acclaimed 15 Serial Killers, Jesus Coyote goes still further. Jaffe's "docufictional" novel based on the Manson murders proves that, like Manson's coyote totem, the myths around him continue to vibrate. In one sweeping panoramic arc, with the brutal murders at its center, Jaffe captures the perspective of Manson, his devotees, the prosecutors, the victims and their mourners -- while exploding the sanctimony of institutionalized morality."

Harold Jaffe, celebrated enemy of convenient mythologies, has re-invented Charles Manson and his "family" through a brilliantly calculated decomposition of cultural images and historical narratives. What finally emerges is an elegantly carnivalesque narrative headlining Jesus Coyote and his tribe of acolytes. Not surprising to those familiar with his previous books, Jaffe's virtuosic novel manages to be both a richly entertaining read and a penetrating interrogation of official versions of cultural history.

-- Stephen-Paul Martin


(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2005)

by Harold Jaffe

As in his two previous 'docufiction' collections, False Positive and 15 Serial Killers, Harold Jaffe selects then 'treats' his texts such that the reader is incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction. That ambiguity permits Jaffe to cunningly tease out the contradictions and subtexts of official 'news' or 'information' and torque it into what it so often is fundamentally: jingoism, xenophobia and propaganda.

Jaffe's subject in Terror-Dot-Gov is not the everywhere-represented 'illicit' terrorism so much as 'licit,' institutionalized terrorism, and he assaults his subject from multiple angles: razor-sharp satire, precisely cadenced rhetoric, faux-reportage, and 'unsituated' dialogues (Jaffe's term, referring to his trademark talking heads with perfect pitch). The result is virtuosic and paradoxical: a prodigious display of firepower -- in the cause of peace.

The newest collection of fiction from author Harold Jaffe includes:

Additionally, Locus Novus recently reprinted Things To Do During Time of War in "a synthesis of text and motion, image, and sound."

"As Terror-Dot-Gov vividly demonstrates, we are spiritually imperiled by illusions masked as 'news.' Omissions, slants, pallid editorials all testifying to servitude to a slavish, enslaving text. Harold Jaffe knows this by heart and has it right. He isolates the self-justifying words that demonize the enemy while cleansing the ongoing crime, the 'preventive strike.' He encourages organized terror (our very own) to emerge white as new-fallen snow. White as leprosy. Everywhere in Terror-Dot-Gov is exemplary skill, faultless tonality. And courage, don't forget courage. In order to be healed, our illness must worsen. Thank you, Harold Jaffe."

-- Daniel Berrigan, SJ

"Language is necessary, but frequently, Jaffe seems to be saying, it is used to obfuscate rather than illuminate. The media culture evoked by Jaffe in his remarkable series of "docufictions" is shown to be using linguistic confusion in order to dominate and subjugate through intimidation. The best defense we have as the objects of confusion is to familiarize ourselves with equivocations and other tricks that are used to make us comply with the dominant culture's methodologies. Remember the 1970s slogan meant to trick 18-year-olds into voting: 'You have the right to vote, so do what is right and vote.' This sort of use of equivocation fools the marginally literate, which most of the nation has become through the elimination of the teaching of logic and nonlinear thought. Simple linear thinkers fall for equivocation and enthymemes. Anyone trained in logic immediately recognizes the equivocation of the term 'right' and the fact that just because we have a legal privilege to do something ('right' in the first sense) does not mean we have an ethical obligation to do it ('right' in the second sense). We have, for example, the right to have our bothersome elders committed to institutions when those elders become problematic, but is that always the ethical thing to do? Of course not. It is the heavy-handed use of language by the dominant society that Jaffe is challenging. And he is examining it as text, as writing. It's good to see that someone is there sitting at the right hand of writing."

-- Recto and Sub-Verso

"Harold Jaffe's Terror-Dot-Gov is innovative and timely; his commentary on topics seen often in daily news reports will resonate with readers whose senses have glazed over, reading and hearing the same spin from the same talking heads, over and over again."

-- The Absinthe Literary Review


15 Serial Killers
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2003)

15 Serial Killers, by Harold Jaffe, was released October, 2003, by Raw Dog Screaming Press. This collection of 15 stories, illustrated by Joel Lipman, exposes society's obsession with the deviant mind.

Taking as his text Georges Bataille's insight that "only at the extremes is there freedom," critically acclaimed "guerrilla writer" Harold Jaffe documents Bataille's aperçu with 15 bone-chilling illustrations. Manson, Starkweather, Speck, Son of Sam, the Night Stalker, Aileen Wuornos, the Unabomber, Dahmer, Bundy, Gacy, Kemper, Kevorkian and Kissinger are not merely present and accounted for, they are rendered into a "reality TV" that you've never seen before.

Widely praised as a virtuoso stylist, Jaffe employs a number of narrative stratagems, such as letters, monologues, interviews and "unsituated dialogues" to torque the flattened, cartoon-like serial killers into a potently unnerving third dimension.

Read sample chapters from 15 Serial Killers:

"With his usual brilliant blend of deadpan humor and uncanny psychological insight, Jaffe takes the likes of Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Son of Sam, and the Unabomber and transforms them from tabloid icons into complex fictional characters. What do Jeffrey Dahmer and Henry Kissinger have in common? Read this book and find out."

-- Stephen-Paul Martin

"With 15 Serial Killers Harold Jaffe continues his relentless exploration of 'dangerous' territory. He's a rare literary pioneer -- brave, brilliant, original. Watch your step, but follow him."

-- Derek Pell

"15 Serial Killers grabs you by the head and forces you to look hard at some of the most disturbing, graphic, violent, senseless acts of our time. It offers up these gruesomes in a deadpan, darkly comic way that, damn it, makes you laugh, which is perhaps the most terrifying thing of all."

-- Claire Tristram


False Positive
(FC2 Books, 2002)

Critically acclaimed "guerrilla writer" Harold Jaffe dazzles us yet again with his imaginative agility. Each of the fifteen fictions in False Positive was originally a newspaper article which Jaffe has "treated." The articles are mostly typical American fare: a high school mass murder; accusations of sexual molestation; the suicide of a rock star; policing pornography on the Internet; another serial killer on the loose . . . Jaffe enters the article, and by various stratagems exposes the host text's predictable but obscured ideology, in the process teasing out its most fertile (that is to say, terrorist) subtexts. Thus re-armed, Jaffe's prosthetic text is released into Culture to do its dirty work.

Read sample chapters from False Positive:

"Startling . . . eerie . . . ingenious. Jaffe has reconfirmed his reputation as 'the master word processor of his generation.'"

-- Publisher's Weekly

"These uncannily skewed para-documentary fictions burrow into a reader's consciousness like viral worms of great subtlety and cunning to explode the dangerous illusion of safety. Jaffe's is a neccessary and bold strategy which marks out new territory for fiction itself."

-- Patricia Eakins

"Jaffe's hard-nosed truth variations read like prose cantos as they refresh the twisted camp of news media for a deeper searing scrutiny. Jaffe evokes tears, laughter and tears of laughter as he artfully fashions absurdity after absurdity into a cold and gleaming template of contemporary American life. Marvelous stuff."

-- Wanda Coleman

"Mass murder! Assisted suicide! Germ warfare! Sex-reassignment surgery! Islamic extremism! Pedophilia! You've read it all before, now read it again here, the same but different. Juxtaposed, intercut, rewritten and detourned. Put it all together, it spells Y2K, where we all live now, after the end of the world. I enjoyed Jaffe's False Positive hugely."

-- Brian McHale


Sex for the Millennium
(Black Ice Books, 1999)

Sex in the year 2001?

The body pierced and tattooed with commerce.

The extremist deviations fetishized for profit.

Technology virtualizing then policing desire.

The citizenry sleeping their dreamless sleep.

With his unerring ear for dialogue, transgressive high style, deadpan comedy, and narrative velocity, Harold Jaffe elaborates his harsh millenarian prophecy while mocking it in a satire as fierce as Swift or Rabelais.

At the same time, Jaffe seeks, as always, to uncover the principle of resistance that will keep us sensitive, sexual, and critical of a culture which would otherwise neuter us.

An intricately connected series of texts, virtually a novel, these 12 "extreme tales" from guerrilla master storyteller Harold Jaffe will reverberate through our reading, infect our dreams, and bleed into our workaday.

Read sample chapters from Sex for the Millennium:

"Something's going on here, low-key, cool, and disturbing. These subtle displacements of desire fix to your memory, and, with their humor and pathos, gnaw there a long time."

-- Samuel R. Delany

"Diverse, direct, adventurous, erudite. Sex for the Millennium is a bold exploration of extreme intimacy through many genres, voices, and rare windows. A smorgasbord of desire; I enjoyed it thoroughly."

-- Eurydice

"If you like your narratives or your sex vanilla, go somewhere else. This is pure terminal atrocity-exhibition rainbow ice."

-- Lance Olsen



I have one docufiction collection in production:

Orfeo. The 15 fictions and docufictions from Orfeo have to do both with the visionary and revolutionary, sometimes in a single text. Several -- "Kosinski & Kaczynski," "Hijab," "Bela Lugosi," and "Orfeo" -- have been published elsewhere.


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