Paradise

( 1 )

Overview

"No other word for it: a charming book."—Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek
Simon, a middle-aged architect separated from his wife, is given the chance to live out a stereotypical male fantasy: freed from the travails of married life, he ends up living with three nubile lingerie models who use him as a sexual object.
Set in the 1980s, there's a further tension between Simon's desire to exploit this stereotypical fantasy and his (as well as the author's) desire to treat the women as ...

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Overview

"No other word for it: a charming book."—Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek
Simon, a middle-aged architect separated from his wife, is given the chance to live out a stereotypical male fantasy: freed from the travails of married life, he ends up living with three nubile lingerie models who use him as a sexual object.
Set in the 1980s, there's a further tension between Simon's desire to exploit this stereotypical fantasy and his (as well as the author's) desire to treat the women as human beings, despite the women's claims that Simon can't distinguish between their personalities.
Employing a variety of forms, Barthelme gracefully plays with this setup, creating a story that's not just funny—although it's definitely that—but actually quite melancholy, as Simon knows that the women's departure is inevitable, that this "paradise" will come to an end, and that he'll be left with only an empty house, booze, and regrets about chances not taken.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Eder - Los Angeles Times
“Paradise is agile, witty and lightened by Barthelme's canny disassociations, and it is one of the blackest things he has written.”
Elizabeth Jolley - The New York Times
“Although Donald Barthelme has written 12 previous books of fiction—containing some of the most innovative influential stories of our day—reading Paradise is a shock and a revelation.”
Michael Feingold - Washington Post Book World
“There's nothing in art as dazzling and bewildering as a fully achieved style at its apex . . . Though superficially Paradise seems to be a modest little caprice, Barthelme strikes every note . . . and the cascade of consonances he pours out really does seem to offer too much beauty for a conventional 1987 sensibility to see the sense behind it.”
From the Publisher

"No other word for it: a charming book."--Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What is paradise? Not Adam's who had only one Eve, but Simon's who has three. Simon, a 53-year-old architect ``with a tragic sense of brick,'' gives himself a year's sabbatical from his firm in Philadelphia and his ruinous marriage, takes an apartment in New York and by one of those everyday coincidences that makes urban life so zingy is moved in on by not one, not two, but three beautiful fashion models so impossibly young they don't know the name Benny Goodman or the century of World War II. They do know all manner of games to add interest to rainy mornings, however. A ``male fantasy'' is what the implausibly articulate and well-read ladies call the arrangement, and they tell Simon he's living in ``hog heaven.'' The slight novel, which includes random meditations on a variety of matters, unfolds mainly in dialogue and one-liners, many of them actually in Q & A form. At times, Barthelme strains for his gags and comic effects, and jokes fall flat or topple into whimsy; but it is amazing how often and well the wit comes off. What is even more amazing is that this odd foursome, this ``loving quartet,'' constitutes a kind of family. When the women leave to pick up the frayed threads of their lives, Simon is forlorn, inconsolable, a desolate ``uncle-figure,'' as one of them calls him. By the end of the book, we too miss them. Best known for his short stories nine books of them so far, Barthelme has written two earlier novelsThe Dead Father in 1975 and Snow White in 1967. First serial to Esquire. November
Library Journal
A middle-aged architect on sabbatical brings home three lovely young lingerie models with no place to stay. Self-mocking, estranged from his wife and daughter, haunted by dreams and memories, Simon begins to live a male fantasy of domestic bliss the women call ``hog heaven.'' They share him sexually and use his apartment as a way station for their inevitable departure. Their snappy, contrapuntal dialogue and coltish ways create for Simon a lively and sensual vision of paradise. The images are pure Barthelme: a wrinkled red bra hangs ``like a cut throat'' in the shower; a policeman enters ``the felon-thick night''; the furniture of paradise is ``knoll, basically.'' A curiously innocent, freewheeling erotic romp, tinged with sadness as much as celebration. Mary Soete, San Diego P.L., Cal .
Library Journal
This 1986 satire of the midlife crisis follows newly single Simon, who moves into his own apartment and shockingly becomes the sex toy of a harem of lingerie models living down the hall. But Simon is such a worrier that instead of enjoying the ultimate male fantasy, he fears he is only being set up for a fall (no wonder his wife ditched him). Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784032
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 964,909
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Barthelme (1931-1989) was the son of an avant-garde architect. He wrote a series of novels and story collections that earned him a wide reputation as one of the most innovative and important voices in American literature.

Though born in New York, he grew up, attended college, and began his writing career in Houston. Winner of the National Book Award, a
Guggenheim Fellowship, and a PEN/Faulkner Award, Barthelme's interest was both literary and cultural.

His style was, in the words of Robert Coover, "precise, urbane,
ironic, rivetingly succinct accumulative in its comical and often surreal juxtapositions." Barthelme was a master of turning his spare,
surprising sentences to the frail absurdity of the modern world as he saw it.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2001

    A stale fantasy given new life by a good storyteller.

    It is a given that every male, from adolescence to the geriatric years, fantasizes about having a harem of beautiful women to amuse him. That accounts for the success of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, and in fact for the success of most of the porn industry. Barthelme taps into this fantasy with his deft and appropriate prose and his accurate use of the idiom of the day. Simon is a 53 year old architect, recently separated from his wife in Philly, and living in a too-large apartment in New York. Simon, in a bar, 'just happens to' run into three beautiful lingerie models down on their luck and with no place to stay. So, guess what? They move in with him, lock, stock and makeup kits. If you buy such an unlikely encounter, then it's off and running with Paradise and the happy foursome. The girls are self-absorbed and energetic; Simon is thoughtful and accepting. It lasts eight months, Simon recounts the story to his shrink after it's over, and it's an amusing, tender yarn. Paradise is an enjoyable read. The few sex scenes, if you can call them that, are definitely soft-core by today's standards. And there's not an awful lot in the way of character development or the deeper meanings of life. But it's fun.

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