Sunday, August 9, 2009

Inflating D.B.


Donald Barthelme was studying journalism and working at the Houston Post when he was drafted into the Korean War. He arrived in Korea for his tour-of-duty the day the cease fire was signed. When he returned to school he began studying philosophy instead and then eventually gave up on university entirely, never getting a degree. He eventually went on to direct the Contemporary Art Museum here in Houston (beginning the same year he published his first short story) and eventually co-founded the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, a program in which way too many of my closest friends have studied and still study.

I adore a writer who can scare me in the way he can. He also makes me feel as if my hands might explode with sensation. I want to eat the pages whole sometimes, when I'm in the right mood and when the story's the right story. I used to fantasize about editing a book of short stories. Off the top of my head I can name two which would necessarily have to be included, and I've only read half of his Sixty Stories. (I'm savoring it.) But don't ask me to write a book report or two sentence summary of anything he's ever written. It's impossible. I like that.