Saturday, February 9

Pleasure bursts

Finally picked up a copy of Bookforum. What a swell publication. I've read their online offerings for some time but it was nice to have a hard copy in my paws. I was inspired to procure an issue after the recent widespread blogosphere upset concerning Bookforum's announced changes. Having now read a volume myself I agree that a move towards current events would be unfortunate. Anyway, as a Bartheleme fan I particularly enjoyed "The Beastly Beatitudes of Donald B."

The most instructive and valuable entry in the McSweeney’s comes from, yes, George Saunders, the outlaw nephew, who suspensefully analyzes the story “The School”—“How’s he going to take this Marx Brothers–quality romp and convert it at the last minute into a Postmodernist Masterpiece?”—and hits on Barthelme’s key stratagem: “Mr. Lesser Writer, in other words, realizing with joy that he has a pattern to work with, sits down to do some Thinking. Barthelme proceeds in a more spontaneous, vaudevillian manner. He knows that the pattern is just an excuse for the real work of the story, which is to give the reader a series of pleasure-bursts.”

Bang! Exactly! Spastic rhapsodies of silver staccato! Pleasure bursts are what it’s about in Barthelme, cherry bombs flung into a crowd of elegant pretenses to fend off unconditional surrender to the fetal curl of melancholy.

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