Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews

Overview

Donald Barthelme's premature death at the age of fifty-eight brought to an end one of the most provocative careers in the history of American literature. Groundbreaking works such as Come Back, Dr. Caligari; The Dead Father; Snow White; Great Days; Overnight to Many Distant Cities; Guilty Pleasures; and his two short-fiction collections, Forty Stories and Sixty Stories, have earned him a place among the most influential and imitated authors of the last half-century. With his marvelously strange and darkly ironic ...
See more details below
Paperback
$14.05
BN.com price
(Save 11%)$15.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (26) from $2.00   
  • New (11) from $3.49   
  • Used (15) from $2.00   
Sending request ...

Overview

Donald Barthelme's premature death at the age of fifty-eight brought to an end one of the most provocative careers in the history of American literature. Groundbreaking works such as Come Back, Dr. Caligari; The Dead Father; Snow White; Great Days; Overnight to Many Distant Cities; Guilty Pleasures; and his two short-fiction collections, Forty Stories and Sixty Stories, have earned him a place among the most influential and imitated authors of the last half-century. With his marvelously strange and darkly ironic vision of the world, his wizard satire and deadpan humor, Barthelme spoke of and for our time like no one else. He spoke of our national obsessions and weirdnesses, our unspeakable practices and unnatural acts, in what is for many the distinctive voice of postmodern America. Not-Knowing is the second posthumous collection of Donald Barthelme's work. Not-Knowing contains Barthelme's pungent comments on writing, art, literature, film, and city life, which are, as John Barth says in his Introduction, among the permanent literary treasures of American postmodernist writing. Also here are several interviews with the author - invaluable for understanding this very private man - including two never before available. The interviews range over the last eighteen years of Barthelme's life, and they give readers the opportunity to watch his ideas as they expand, change, and settle.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Barthelmismo" was Thomas Pynchon's term for the disparate writings of Barthelme (1931-89), whose self-reflexive, fragmentary style in such books as The Dead Father and Snow White defined literary postmodernism for a generation of writers born after WWII. This second posthumous anthology of previously uncollected work edited by Herzinger, yields slimmer pickings than The Teachings of Don B., its predecessor. Herzinger opens with two dazzling essays on aesthetics: 1964's "After Joyce," a defense of the artwork as an "object in the world rather than a text or commentary on the world," and 1982's "Not Knowing," which holds that art is a meditation upon the world propelled by questions and riddles. The rest of the book is an uneven hodgepodge, featuring brief, lambent portraits of Barthelme's Greenwich Village that originally appeared in The New Yorker; reviews of books, art exhibits and films; a spirited symposium on fiction with Grace Paley, Walker Percy and William Gass; short essays, speeches and seven lengthy interviews. These sometimes ponderous Q&As, conducted by Barthelme exegetes like Jerome Klinkowitz and Larry McCaffery, Charles Ruas and Judith Sherman, are dead weight compared to Barthelme's essays and fiction. What holds this collection together is Barthelme's rapturous fascination with the visual arts and with language and its adepts (Joyce, Stein, Beckett, Gass, Pynchon, Barth); his cheeky, exuberant voice and "[t]he combinatorial agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they're allowed to go to bed together," he says in his title essay, that "makes art possible." (Aug.)
Library Journal
In his early essay "After Joyce" (1964), the first title in this nonfiction omnibus, Barthelme, America's preeminent postmodern practitioner, made a strong argument for the literary work "as an object in the world rather than a commentary upon the world." The writer, "betrayed by outmoded forms," may find in play "one of the great possibilities of art." A whole generation of writers obliged, among them Gass, Elkin, Hawkes, Coover, Gaddis, and Pynchon. In one of his last essays, "Not-Knowing" (published not long before his death in 1989, at age 58), Barthelme, having shaken off that "rhetoric of the time," admits that much of contemporary criticism robs the work of its mystery, which indeed "exists." These two essays, offered back to back, buoy this collection, which includes later interviews that demonstrate for writing students his methods, influences, etc. Much of Barthelme's New Yorker commentary (on art, politics, living in Greenwich Village) seems dated now. Important for literature collections and writing programs.Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
What Thomas Pynchon called "Barthelmismo" is somewhat lacking in the second posthumous collection edited by Herzinger of Barthelme's miscellaneous writings, which here includes film and book reviews, art catalog essays, and New Yorker pieces.

"Barthelme Takes On Task of Almost Deciphering His Fiction" ran the New York Times headline when Barthelme delivered a lecture for New York University's Writer at Work series. That headline could equally well describe many of these abbreviated critical pieces and not wholly forthcoming interviews. The often-reprinted "Not-Knowing" (1982) is a spirited, idiosyncratic analysis of creativity—the search for an adequate rendering of the world's "messiness"—as well as a playful, sometimes self-parodying literary performance piece. The essay contains a short "letter to a literary critic" expressing condolences on the demise of Postmodernism, which Barthelme recycled into an unsigned piece for his favorite publication, the New Yorker. Barthelme's many other pieces for the magazine waver lamely between its characteristic wryness and his own fabulist flair, though there is one happy, humorous piece that purports to answer a Writer's Digest questionnaire about his drinking habits. Barthelme also tried his hand at film criticism for the New Yorker in 1979, but his reviews of Truffaut, Herzog, and Bertolucci are surprisingly heavy going, as are his writings on abstract expressionists and contemporary architecture. Editor Herzinger (English/Univ. of Southern Mississippi) has also included a number of interviews with Barthelme, of widely varying quality. The longest interview, a radio serial chat from 197576, seems dated and pretentious (e.g.: "I would not say that Snow White predicts the Manson case"); the most stimulating is actually the transcript of a 1975 symposium with his peers William Gass, Grace Paley, and Walker Percy.

Though John Barth calls this a "booksworth of encores" in his introduction, many of the pieces seem to be merely magazine outtakes and literary b-sides.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593761738
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 975,902
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Donald Barthelme was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, winner of a National Book Award, a director of PEN and the Authors Guild, and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. His sixteen books--including Snow White, The Dead Father, and City Life--substantially redefined American short fiction for our time.

About the Editor:

Kim Herzinger teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of books and articles on D.H. Lawrence, modern and contemporary literature, Sherlock Holmes, and baseball, and is now at work on a cultural biography of Donald Barthelme.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)