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Mini-Whoppers

Patrick Parrinder

7 July 1988
Forty Stories 
by Donald Barthelme.
Secker, 256 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 436 03424 7
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Tiny Lies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02560 0
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Ellen Foster 
by Kaye Gibbons.
Cape, 146 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 224 02529 5
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After the War 
by Frederick Raphael.
Collins, 528 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 00 223352 5
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... There are not many facts available about DonaldBarthelme, at least on this side of the Atlantic. He has been hailed as a leading Post-Modernist, but Post-Modernism (to the extent that it has a credo) stresses the unreliability of facts and the supremacy of ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald​ Antrim

20 November 2014
The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald​ Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... the computer screen or I heard it late at night as one of those World Service items that favour politely delivered scenes of the American berserk. Either way it put me in mind of a passage early in Donald Antrim’s first novel, Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World: I keep seeing Jim’s face, lit red by tail lights, in the long moments before the lines snapped taut, while Bill Nixon tried and ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White

19 July 2012
Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... of modernism vandalised the ‘tradition of Tolstoy and Chekhov’. By this point, White was trying to get a deal to write a book of criticism on John Barth, Robert Coover, Rudolph Wurlitzer and DonaldBarthelme. The proposal was rejected. Though ‘crushed at the time’, White was later glad, because metafiction ‘no longer intrigues’ him ‘or anyone else’. It’s ‘the sort of ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers

19 August 1999
Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... known for her three volumes of stories, The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974) and Later the Same Day (1985) – and the writers she likes, notably the late DonaldBarthelme. Above all she remembers. ‘I remember the day that the East Bronx began to become the South Bronx.’ ‘My love of country, any country, is always being interrupted in its patriotic ...

Soft-Speaking Tough Souls

Joyce Carol Oates: Grace Paley

16 April 1998
The Collected Stories of Grace Paley 
Virago, 398 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 1 86049 423 4Show More
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... and Sixties, tessellated, self-conscious prose, symbolism and ‘experimentation’ were in vogue, as well as the fey, relentlessly parodistic short fiction of Paley’s neighbour and good friend DonaldBarthelme. The gargantuan mock-epics of John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy, now little-read, were much praised at the time, and the ‘literature of exhaustion’ was the literature ...
2 February 1984
The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... heirs of has long since exhausted its legacy. The so-called ‘postmodernists’ Karl promotes aren’t ‘ingenious borrowers of European forms’ but sterile imitators of those forms. To argue that DonaldBarthelme, Ronald Sukenick, William Gaddis and company belong to some contemporary American avant-garde is to rationalise the fact that they have no audience. Karl cites as instances of writers ...

Porndecahedron

Christopher Tayler: Nicholson Baker

3 November 2011
House of Holes 
by Nicholson Baker.
Simon and Schuster, 262 pp., £14.99, August 2011, 978 0 85720 659 6
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... workplace, defamiliarised by intricate descriptions of vending machines and shoelaces – looks a bit like an Americanised nouveau roman and puts Baker somewhere on a line of descent between DonaldBarthelme, with whom he briefly studied, and David Foster Wallace. Yet Howie isn’t void-struck or an object of satire. Like Mike, the narrator of Baker’s second novel, Room Temperature (1990), he just ...

Life and Work

Philip Horne

8 May 1986
Falling apart 
by Nicholas Salaman.
Secker, 190 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 436 44087 3
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Memoirs of Many in One 
by Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray, edited by Patrick White.
Cape, 192 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 0 224 02371 3
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Free Agents 
by Max Apple.
Faber, 197 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 571 13852 7
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... were to be accused of a fault, in fact, the charge would involve the somewhat ‘winning’ air with which a few of these conceits are presented: a liability to surreal turns in the fashion of DonaldBarthelme, without quite the cool reticence that distances Barthelme from cuteness. But such an accusation would only be made by an unsympathetic reader, and Max Apple’s carefully measured candour ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels

19 August 1999
Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... secondary, subsequent.’ Part Two is a collection of literary-critical essays on ‘the phenomenon of secondary narrative’ with attention to authors from Homer, Chaucer and Charlotte Yonge to DonaldBarthelme and John Barth. A number of the contributors focus on 18th-century fiction, others on 20th-century film, two places where one might most readily expect to find evidence of sequelmania ...

A Shark Swims through It

Lidija Haas: A Talent for Nonchalance

8 March 2018
A Grace Paley Reader: Stories, Essays and Poetry 
edited by Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley.
Farrar, Straus, 371 pp., $27, October 2017, 978 0 374 16582 6
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... while; her first collection came out in 1959 after another mother from the neighbourhood insisted that her ex-husband, an editor at Doubleday, have a look at them. Paley claimed in a brief tribute to DonaldBarthelme, her friend and neighbour on West 11th Street, that only thanks to him had she brought out her second collection. In 1973, 14 years after the publication of The Little Disturbances of Man ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman: Down with Creative Writing

23 September 2010
The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... literary tradition.McGurl himself observes that a limited historical consciousness is ‘endemic to the discipline of creative writing, whose ultimate commitment is not to knowledge but to what DonaldBarthelme called “Not-Knowing”’. Formed in the shadow of New Criticism, the creative writing discourse still displays ‘not a commitment to ignorance, exactly, but … a commitment to ...

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