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. Like The Teachings of Don B. (1992), it brings together shorter works now almost impossible to come by. While the first volume featured the author's tantalizing experiments in satire, parable, fable, and playwriting, this new volume focuses on his diverse nonfiction pieces, collectively referred to here as essays, although, as always with Barthelme's work, they are feistily resistant to any label. Categorizable or not, 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.
Kim Herzinger has gathered here an eclectic selection of pieces for Barthelme's many admirers, creating a work that will confirm his rightful standing as, in the words of Robert Coover, "one of the great citizens of contemporary world letters."
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Published January 28, 2008
Literature & Fiction.