Flying to America: 45 More Stories

Flying to America: 45 More Stories

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by Donald Barthelme
     
 

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Donald Barthelme was one of the most influential and inventive writers of the 20th century. His unique and richly textured stories, parodies, satires, fables, and essays led Robert Coover to call him "one of our great citizens of contemporary world letters." In this volume of unpublished and previously uncollected stories, he transforms the absurd and strange into the… See more details below

Overview

Donald Barthelme was one of the most influential and inventive writers of the 20th century. His unique and richly textured stories, parodies, satires, fables, and essays led Robert Coover to call him "one of our great citizens of contemporary world letters." In this volume of unpublished and previously uncollected stories, he transforms the absurd and strange into the real in his usual epiphanic and engaging style. The stories delve further into themes that often interested Barthelme: the perils of the unfulfilled existence; the relationships between politics, art, sex, and life; and the importance of continuing to ask questions even though we are unable to learn the answers. This collection will delight both old fans and new readers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Along with Kurt Vonnegut, Barthelme (1931-1989) was one of the great 20th-century American absurdists. The 45 stories in this collection include stories Barthelme himself excluded from his two major collections, Sixty Storiesand Forty Stories, and little that went previously unpublished. Packed with whimsical facts, "Emma Green Is 81," which was the lead story in Barthelme's first book, concerns the verbose narrator's testy desire that Emma continue to finance the Journal of Tension Reduction, of which he is the editor. In "Pandemonium," the story Barthelme was working on when he died, two unidentified voices finish each other's sentences as they lament that their staging of the Eve myth has been eclipsed by a sporting event. Barthelme registered the sexual revolution and the feminist response, both of which he treated via an ironic use of stereotypes: in "Perpetua," a woman walks out of her marriage to a put-upon, unprepossessing, baffled man named Harold. And typical of several humorous riffs is "Marie Marie, Hold on Tight," concerning a protest staged against the human condition outside a church. Even the lesser of Barthelme's funhouse mirrors reflect the world's tragicomic essence. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

Barthelme's collection arrives like a wondrous jewel unearthed. The subtitle refers to the previously unpublished or uncollected short fiction this volume offers, making a full bibliography when combined with the other anthologies Sixty Stories(1981) and Forty Stories(1987). Barthelme remains a cult writer, in the most positive way. His experimental short stories left a huge mark on the modern fiction landscape, a tradition carried on by his heirs Padgett Powell and David Foster Wallace, among others. His work is like that of a melancholic genius, with utterly unique descriptions such as "But the lien officer had a head as clear as the decimal system, as clear as capitalism." Words like naperyand sacerdotalare not uncommon. Some of the 45 pieces here are reprinted verbatim from their magazine sources; others are reworked extensively. As a whole, this is less satisfying than the other collections, but the title story (and at least ten others) remains wildly successful. Libraries already owning Barthelme's established canon may want to pick this up despite the hideous sartorial cover art.
—Travis Fristoe

Kirkus Reviews
The final collection of the influential writer's previously uncollected stories. Though the preface by editor Herzinger makes a case that the third posthumously published volume of the author's work is the "crown jewel of the project," the fact remains that these are the stories that the writer himself considered the bottom third. He intended his reputation to rest with Sixty Stories (1981), followed by Forty Stories (1987). Not that what remains are dregs of marginalia, unworthy of publication. Many of these first appeared in the New Yorker, where Barthelme's frequent appearances through the 1960s and early '70s helped (for better or worse) perpetuate the stereotype of the New Yorker story as one in which people talk a lot about little and nothing much happens. Others appeared in Playboy and even Penthouse ("Presents," with its recurring but decidedly unsensual motif of two naked women). And many were also republished in the volumes from which previous collections were drawn. Most of these stories have the signature style that made Barthelme as pervasive through the '60s as Peter Max-the dialogue that never quite connects, as if two people are talking past each other, the non sequiturs that suggest that literary cause-and-effect is merely artifice, an exercise in absurdity. (Take the opening paragraph of "You Are As Brave As Vincent Van Gogh": "You eavesdrop in three languages. Has no one ever told you not to pet a leashed dog? We wash your bloody hand with Scotch from the restaurant.") Among the formalistic experiments included are one story written almost entirely in questions ("The Agreement"), another completely in dialogue, without quotation marks, between two unidentified speakers("Wrack"), another a contest collaboration in which Barthelme wrote the first three paragraphs and invited others to complete it ("Manfred"). There is the first story that he ever published, using a pseudonym ("Pages from the Annual Report"), and the last that he published in the New Yorker ("Tickets") just months before his 1989 death. For Barthelme completists only.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582434438
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
949,978
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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