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The Teachings of Don B.: The Satires, Parodies, Fables, Illustrated Stories, and Plays of Donald Barthelme

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A hypothetical episode of Batman hilariously slowed down to soap-opera speed. A game of baseball as played by T.S. Eliot and Wilem "Big Ball" de Kooning. A recipe suitable for feeding sixty park-enamored celebrants at one's daughter's wedding. An outlandishly illustrated account of a scientific quest for God. These astonishing tropes of the imagination could only have been generated by Donald Barthelme, who, until his death in 1989, more or less goosed American letters into taking a quantum leap. Now sixty-three ...
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Overview

A hypothetical episode of Batman hilariously slowed down to soap-opera speed. A game of baseball as played by T.S. Eliot and Wilem "Big Ball" de Kooning. A recipe suitable for feeding sixty park-enamored celebrants at one's daughter's wedding. An outlandishly illustrated account of a scientific quest for God. These astonishing tropes of the imagination could only have been generated by Donald Barthelme, who, until his death in 1989, more or less goosed American letters into taking a quantum leap. Now sixty-three of Barthelme's rare or previously uncollected shorter works—including satires and fables, plays for stage and radio, and collages—have been assembled in a single volume. Gleeful, melancholy, erudite, and wonderfully subversive, The Teachings of Don B. is a literary testament cum time bomb, with the power to blast any reader into an altered state of consciousness.


"Barthelme happens to be one of a handful of American authors, there to make the rest of us look bad, who know instinctively how to stash the merchandise, bamboozle the inspectors, and smuggle their nocturnal contraband right on past the checkpoints of daylight 'reality.'"—Thomas Pynchon, from the Introduction

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Barthelme telegraphs his bereaved amusement at a half-mad world in this posthumous miscellany. With mischievous wit, he deftly satirizes journalistic cliches, Playboy bunnies, Watergate miscreants, country music, the California mindset, ``that Cosmopolitan girl'' and Carlos Castaneda. He unleashes curmudgeonly sentiments about Thanksgiving, Ed Sullivan and government. He turns T. S. Eliot's "Waste Land" into a Broadway musical, spins futurist fantasies and rewrites the Batman saga. Much of this is vintage Barthelme. Illustrated stories and collages, which deconstruct social conventions with surreal humor and antique charm, are reminiscent of Edward Gorey's books. In the play "Snow White", Barthelme ponders what it's like to be a bored, frustrated "housewife.'' Other off-the-wall stage and radio plays included here reflect his rebellion against mundane reality. Most of the pieces are previously uncollected, though several appeared in "Guilty Pleasures", an earlier omnibus. Barthelme's ready-made urban angst ultimately palls, however. For all its wit and inventiveness, his elegant, solipsistic doodling has only a tenuous grip on reality.
Library Journal
This is an assemblage of generally short pieces either previously unpublished, uncollected, or altered after publication, including the dramatization of the delirious postmodern "Snow White" ( LJ 5/15/67). These compositions are not easily categorized (although several are journalistic), which is part of their charm. References to such events as America's semi-forgotten Bicentennial might seem dated, but instead a certain vexing nostalgia is elicited when the subject is keenly targeted. Kindred spirit Thomas Pynchon provides an introduction that sets the tone for the writing that follows: amusing, heightened with cynicism, and rankled to the point of irritation yet without bitterness. The brevity of many of these pieces may make this intermittently cryptic author more accessible to some readers. This is indispensable Barthelme for most humanities collections..-- Janice Braun, Oakland, Cal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679741190
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/31/1998
  • Series: Vintage International Ser.
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.85 (d)

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