New book by Randy Fertel – A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation

In response to the recent IAJS discussion list thread about Jung as Trickster, I would like to bring to your attention my new book – A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation, which I dedicate to James Hillman, “a ferocious Trickster,” and in which Trickster figures prominently in my chapter “’Pierce[d] … with Strange Relation’: Jung, Joyce, and Mann Embrace the Back Streets” (about Liber Novus, Ulysses, and Doctor Faustus).

GNF_F16_Chaos copyA Taste for Chaos explores the art of artlessness, the decorum of imperfection, both provinces of Trickster. Trickster is the spirit of improv and improv his literary embodiment. As Susan Rowland says of Jung in her recently posted article so too I argue of improv, that its “‘literary’ qualities are themselves forms of argument.” Their argument? — that we should embrace more than the received rationality of our day. Improv since Homeric times is the discourse of paradigm shifts when the limits of rationality are being challenged.

About my Hermes chapter, Stanley Lombardo, translator of The Iliad and The Odyssey and Prof. Emeritus of Classics, Univ. of Kansas writes: “The magnificent chapter on Hermes and Odysseus is alone worth the price of the entire volume.”

The work of 40 years, the book is out this month from Spring Journal Books and can be purchased here:

Randy Fertel, PhD
Former adjunct professor, New School for Social Research, Tulane
Founder, The Ridenhour Prizes for Courageous Truth-telling
Head, The Fertel Foundation

“A smart blend of psychology, philosophy and literary history…. A tour de force of reading in the fields of literary theory and history befitting a George Steiner or Erich Auerbach.”
—Kirkus Reviews
A Taste for Chaos is a stunner of a book – smart, jarring, innovative, witty, provocative, wise, and beautifully written. As a sustained and unified work of literary analysis, this book is nothing short of dazzling, both in its meticulously structured central argument and in its intricate exploration of the artistic tensions between order and disorder, reason and intuition, design and improvisation.  Not only is this a book about the artistic endeavor, but it is also a work of art in its own right.
— Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried and National Book Award winner for Going After Cacciato

A Taste for Chaos is both important and rich with a perceptive imagination; it is a good match to Isaacson’s The Innovators, and stands tall as another huge and hand-carved broom that removes so much dust from the floors of the academy. Fertel is about stepping up to the issue and using his head for much more than a hat rack.
—Stanley Crouch, Kansas City Lightning

A Taste for Chaos is important to Jungians because it says something new about archetypal dynamics and literature. In support of this exciting cross-disciplinary opportunity, this book offers a new and powerful multidisciplinary context for JungRed Book (2009), all the while providing a radical argument about the psyche and its arts.”

You can find the review here:


A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation, By Randy Fertel
A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation, By Randy Fertel