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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Teachings Of Don B.

Donald Barthelme, in a letter to his yet-to-be-born daughter: "When you leap from the womb, we'll teach you how to play croquet, and how to clean bookcases, and how to write your name, and how to make mudcakes and who Bix Beiderbecke was and all about whiskey and wine and all about Eve and Adam and where to mail your letters."

The letter's part of an ongoing exhibit at the University of Houston, reports The Houston Chronicle. Titled The Teachings of Don B: Selections From The Donald Barthelme Papers, it marks the public unveiling of the author's papers, acquired by them in 2002.

The report continues, "Barthelme is often described as a postmodernist, a category that includes Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Robert Coover and Don DeLillo. Barthelme himself preferred the term 'alleged postmodernist.' His stories generally eschewed traditional plot and character in favor of parody, lists and witty riffs on everything from rock music to Tolstoy."

Here's Dave Eggers on first reading Barthelme: "I was astounded. And I felt like a thief. Or rather, that I was trodding on territory already better explored by D.B. ... Either he is my spiritual father or I am a crook."

Oh, and in a move likely to bring about a major reassessment of Barthelme's work, the exhibit also includes an old grocery list.


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