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0 Comments | Aug 12, 2016

Barthelme, or Something

bartheleme.watrissLet me begin by observing that, while I have read—and on occasion even enjoyed—some of Barthelme’s work, indeed have scrutinized it with what I can only describe as painstaking assiduousness (emphasis on the pain part), I confess here, for the record, that I understand neither the writing itself nor the ethos or personal angst or whatever it is that would drive an otherwise intelligent person to construct such obtuse stories (stories here being a term I employ in only its very loosest connotation, what with me being a rather traditional sort of guy, at least in the sense that I like my stories to have clearly perceptible beginnings, middles, and endings, which I totally get is regarded these days as rather quaint and possibly even anachronistic, with extended streams of consciousness and disjointed non sequiturs now being published with startling regularity as stories in what I will be kind and refer to as the country’s leading literary journals) apparently in the expectation of at least critical acclaim if not popular regard from the reading public—a public which, by the way, I have, as a result of my own writing efforts, found to be more than a little unforgiving when it comes to gratuitous opaqueness, though goodness knows there will, I suppose, always remain that tiny clique of academicians who regard writing that is straightforward and comprehensible as somehow unworthy of their time or even consideration, and who, to my great personal chagrin, will even go so far as to judge those of us who perpetuate the prosaic as being either sellouts or otherwise lacking in imagination or aspiration or any of the other attributes currently being inculcated into the legions of MFA students plying their craft in workshops or the aforementioned journals, each in the pathetic hope of winning a prestigious prize or someday having a writing contest named in their honor, which no doubt makes my writing about them here ironic or possibly just coincidental, but which in any event goes some way to explaining the nose-in-the-air reaction that so annoys and in some cases depresses those of us who slave our lives away at the word processor simply in the hope of reaching that one small handful of readers who really appreciate a good story with believable characters they can care about, if only for a fleeting moment, and whose journeys are emblematic of the readers’ own, in the sense of learning a lesson or two from life while also enjoying a respite—however brief—from their daily grind, which, needless to say, I have one of myself (a grind, that is) and which reminds me that I have now reached nearly the end of my word count limit without, in fact, having made any salient point at all, or, for that matter, even remembering where I was going with that opening Barthelme diatribe, all of which leads me to conclude that I should probably just cut my losses now and stop.

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