Thoughts on Donald Barthelme’s ‘Forty Stories’

Forty Stories

 

It is perhaps interesting that for me the best part of this book was the introduction written by somebody else.

*

Q: And why was this?

A: Because it was the most entertaining part and made the most sense.

*

-Surely not?

-Why yes.

-Really?

-As sure as eggs is eggs is eggs. With bacon. Fried in chocolate for the delectation of the discerning middle classes.

*

The expectation that was assumed to be in evidence was not proved to be as such when the reading actually commenced following the cesation of the previous tome which previously I have reviewed and thought upon prior to this thinking and musing and thought about, leaving the reader in no doubt as to what this reader thinks re: this forty-storey book of stories (not as tall as first thought- blame the government and the recession and the teachers on strike along with the bloody airport staff) that you may or may not have come across. Therefore the sense of what I write (along with the logic of illogical executions, randomly placed lions and latter-day saints living in apartment blocks) will either be all perfectly sensible or unknown to the extreme.

*

-So is he like Kafka?

-What?

-Kafka.

-Who?

-Kafka.

-Yes.

-How?

-They’re both dead.

-More specific…

-Is that not specific enough?

-No.

-Not like Kafka, no. More scatological and less obvious. And without the questionable presence of insects. But similar in some ways-

[insert b&w engraving of a Victorian lady in a bathing costume, a woodlouse and a Greek temple]

-Even better, let’s use a bold black circle as a discussion point. You must reference Ghandi, the Buddha and Jacques Cousteau. In any order. Your time begins once the porcupines have registered and taken their seats on the plane. Any second now…

*

Kaboom and kaballah. Bismillah and bar mitzvah. Etcetera. Etc. Et. E.

*

And so on.

And a bit more.

-Did it inform you about the present state of the state’s present president? Or Global Warming?

-No.

-Did you enjoy it?

-Ask me another question.

-Did you derive pleasure from it?

-That’s the same question.

-But different wording.

-I don’t know. Yes and no.

*

Q: Why yes?

A: Because some of the stories were interesting and surreal but in a good way.

Q: And why no?

A: Because some of the stories were unintelligible and surreal but in a bad way.

*

Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby. That was a good one. As was The temptation of St. Anthony. And Porcupines at the university. And Lightening. And Sakrete. And The genius.

*

Somebody else = Dave Eggers (as per Penguin Modern Classics edition ISBN on request. Send a postcard.)

*

I may read this book again at some point but at the present moment I know not when but I do hope to at some point as then I may learn to understand the intricacies of the many texts [40 to be more or less precise- Ed.] in this book cut and spliced from other Bartheleme books of short tales and stories and vignettes and randomness that I will never bother to read due to the bad taste and headache this volume left upon the counter next to the coffee mug i drowned my sorrows in, and which was not as good as either the cover (always judge a book by it) or the introduction (never judge a book by it) made it out to be.

*

Now go and make me an omlette using only the words on this page and the pages of fifteen separate newspapers from the day on which your favourite uncle turned into a teenager. Then tune in next time for the next exciting installment. Leave your comments and likes and etceteras below, above, behind and all around like love. Here is the author:

tentacled man

Image: Dan Hillier

Now enjoy with a selection of chocolates from around the world, presented on a seaweed platter. And don’t forget the bacon.

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