Thursday, December 28, 2006

Donald Barthelme

I've got some days off work this week, which is just as well as I'm in the middle of writing an essay on Donald Barthelme and it's slow going. It's only to be 5000 words long, and I've already culled 3000 words of relevant quotes from various sources, so I'm going to have to do a fair bit of editing.

He's not very fashionable these days, not much read, I don't think. Certainly, the criticism of his work seems to dry up in the late 90s. I think it's a shame because, although much of the work hasn't aged, some of it is powerful.

"One should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever, no matter what is tattooed upon the warm, tympanic page."

That's classic Barthelme. It feels like a truism, but at the last moment he manages to subvert it into something more strange and more lovely. There's an aura of hopeful melancholy about the best of his writing which, even when he is at his opaque best (or worst) is beautifully human.