Donald Barthelme | Critical Review by Kirkus Reviews

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Donald Barthelme.
This section contains 345 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Kirkus Reviews

SOURCE: A review of Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme, in Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1997, pp. 843-44.

The following is a negative assessment of Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme.

What Thomas Pynchon called "Barthelmismo" is somewhat lacking in [Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme] 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 1975–76, 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.

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This section contains 345 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Kirkus Reviews
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