Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21: Donald Barthelme
A Month of Short Stories and Their Authors

now finished: Little Women, Part One by Louisa May Alcott
(which, fun fact, was the whole of Little Women when originally published in 1868, but there's a Part Two, published in 1869, which is now always published with the first part as Little Women, and I'm annoyed that I have to read Part Two

Let's just get right to it.

Today's Story: "The School"
Author: Donald Barthelme

My Rating: B

Maybe I'm being unfair. It's more enjoyable than, say, Alice Munro's "Boys and Girls," but it's still very much an "Um--what?" kind of read.

I've not read Mr. Barthelme before. He's on my radar and all, but I just haven't got around to it. I see that he likes to be a little dark, a little wacky, a little surreal. OK, that's all well and good. And god love him for killing a puppy instead of a cat; I've had it up to here with the !@$^&* shit treatment of cats in stories and books. But the end of this story seems like a total 180 from the first two thirds. Why the tone switch? Perhaps because the teacher is trying to explain. But, it just seems to come out of nowhere and make not a lot of sense (how old were these kids, anyway, to be asking for such a demonstration? The previous trees/puppy/fish stuff would lead a reader to believe they are young!)

And yeah, he should be given credit for the profound thoughts about what makes life meaningful. But overall, this is just a jumble. Its main (only?) attraction is that it's weird; it just starts flinging death at you so it can be all edgy and whatnot. Meh.

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