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Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme

by

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"When, within a year's time, both Raymond Carver and Donald Barthelme succumbed in their fifties to cancer (Carver in August of 1988; Barthelme that next July), it was as if the reigning president and vice-president of the American Short Story had suddenly died. Both were beloved by peers and acolytes, though they struggled for readers, and each, in separate decades, had revitalized a genre that since the invention of television has been continually pronounced both moribund and in a condition of renaissance (recovering from moribund)...." Lorrie Moore, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the 1960s Donald Barthelme came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement. He was a fixture at the New Yorker, publishing more than 100 short stories, including such masterpieces as "Me and Miss Mandible," the tale of a thirty-five-year-old sent to elementary school by clerical error, and "A Shower of Gold,"in which a sculptor agrees to appear on the existentialist game show Who Am I? He had a dynamic relationship with his father that influenced much of his fiction. He worked as an editor, a designer, a curator, a news reporter, and a teacher. He was at the forefront of literary Greenwich Village which saw him develop lasting friendships with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Grace Paley, and Norman Mailer. Married four times, he had a volatile private life. He died of cancer in 1989. The recipient of many prestigious literary awards, he is best remembered for the classic novels Snow White, The Dead Father, and many short stories, all of which remain in print today.  This is the first biography of Donald Barthelme, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Tracy Daugherty's work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Georgia Review, and others. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. Once a student of Donald Barthelme's, he is now Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University.

An Oregon Book Award Finalist

In the 1960s Donald Barthelme came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement. He was a fixture at The New Yorker, publishing more than 100 short stories, including such masterpieces as "Me and Miss Mandible," the tale of a thirty-five-year-old sent to elementary school by clerical error, and "A Shower of Gold," in which a sculptor agrees to appear on the existentialist game show Who Am I? He had a dynamic relationship with his father that influenced much of his fiction. He worked as an editor, a designer, a curator, a news reporter, and a teacher. He was at the forefront of literary Greenwich Village which saw him develop lasting friendships with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Grace Paley, and Norman Mailer. Married four times, he had a volatile private life. He died of cancer in 1989. The recipient of many prestigious literary awards, he is best remembered for the classic novels Snow White, The Dead Father, and many short stories, all of which remain in print today. This is the first biography of Donald Barthelme, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

"The best of Donald Barthelme's stories have an exquisite, shimmering beauty. They take immense risks with tone and content; they bathe the known world in the waters of irony, rhythmic energy and exuberant formal trickiness. The systems used in his style are close to the thrilling moments of obscure mystery in John Ashbery's poetry, or to the non sequitur followed by pure sequitur in the plays of Beckett, or to the deadpan radiant perfection in the sentences of Don DeLillo. It is easy for work like Barthelme's, so exciting when it first appears, to date and seem stale, and eventually, on subsequent readings, to become too smart for its own goodbut this has not happened with many of the stories. For making it new and strange, he is a heroic figure in modern literature. And, even though fashions have changed and he no longer sits center stage, he remains an important influence, especially in the United States. It is maybe right and fitting that Donald Barthelme the writer arose in response to another exacting presence who also bore his namehis father, Donald Barthelme the architect. The senior Barthelme created important modern buildings in Texas, including the family home on the outskirts of Houston, and spent his life preaching and teaching about the need for a new and uncompromising modern style. ('Be prepared for failure,' he told his son once he had seriously embarked on his career as a writer.) Donald Jr., born in 1931, remembered moving when he was 8 to the house his father had built: it was, he said, 'wonderful to live in but strange to see on the Texas prairie. On Sundays people used to park their cars out on the street and stare. . . . We used to get up from Sunday dinner, if enough cars had parked, and run out in front of the house in a sort of chorus line, doing high kicks.' The early chapters of Tracy Daugherty's admiring, comprehensive and painstaking biography of Donald Barthelme, Hiding Man, emphasize the challenging education he received in taste and theory from his father and then the brilliant education he gave himself in Houston when he was in his 20s . . . Donald Barthelme was lucky in many ways. He was lucky in the quality of his upbringing and education, lucky, also, to find a home at The New Yorker for work that might have seemed difficult and obscure; he was lucky in love a number of timeshis second wife, Helen, especially, emerges in these pages as a wise and affectionate friend throughout his life. He was lucky, too, that he continued to work on his fiction to the end, work that in its very sharpness and newness must have taken its toll. He was also fortunate in the way he could drink, announcing to a friend in the 1980s that he was 'a little drunk all the time' without going through many periods where he was 'falling down.' And he has been lucky, finally, in having a biographer who has not dwelt too much on the darkness in Barthelme's soul, the unevenness of the work or the sadness and messiness of his life. Daugherty, instead, has managed to make a case for a body of work in which the best stories have the aura of a second act, and to create a convincing narrative out of a life that was deeply engaged, passionate and maybe even fulfilled, despite the demons, and out of a life of the mind that was rigorous, exacting and, despite Barthelme's early death, deeply productive."Colm Tóibín, The New York Times Book Review

"Not just a modest remembrance but a full-length, meticulously documented study. All dead authors should be so lucky . . . Daugherty was Barthelme's student in the '80s. The last time Daugherty saw him, six months before he died, his former teacher gave him a new assignment: 'Write a story about a genius.' He did, and I'd give it an A."Steven Moore, The Washington Post

"Like a knowledgeable curator, Daugherty walks us through Barthelme's publications book by book, pausing for brilliant explications of the more challenging stories, such as 'Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning,' which comes into sharper focus after Daugherty explains its relationship to a 1931 Jean Renoir film with a similar title. He interleaves this analysis with accounts of the writer's four marriages, affairs, teaching stints and other extracurricular activities in a respectful but not hagiographic manner. (He reveals, for instance, that Barthelme had drinking problems starting at 16, was fiscally irresponsible and smoked so much he died of cancer at 58.) I especially enjoyed Daugherty's fierce defense of Barthelme's works as socially responsible art, not as the aesthetic playthings that some critics accuse them of being. As life became more complicated in the 20th century, and as the media and corporations tried to define reality for consumers, Barthelme felt new tactics were necessary to render and to criticize this future-shocked world. Daugherty quotes from Barthelme's essay 'Not-Knowing' on the writer's 'need to refresh language continually, to keep it free of 'political and social contamination,' safe from co-optation by commercial interests.' While the tradit

Review:

"This sprawling first biography of the writer Donald Barthelme (1931 — 1989) complements an exemplary account of the man and his milieu with a history of 20th-century architecture, film, philosophy, visual art and political activism — not to mention a stunning exegesis of Barthelme's work and a surfeit of vignettes from New York literary life in the 1960s and '70s. Daugherty, a professor of English and creative writing at Oregon State and former student of Barthelme, renders the writer of The Dead Father in all his complexity: the experimental iconoclast, the 'establishment figure' without a university degree who published more than 100 stories in the New Yorker, the citizen-activist, admitted alcoholic, the devoted if distant father and the 'prankster on the page.' While Daugherty firmly takes Barthelme's side in his four troubled marriages, he assesses the writer's legacy, his champions and detractors (e.g., Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner and the 'hundreds' of readers who canceled their New Yorker subscriptions in 1968 to protest the publication of his catty Snow White). Like Barthelme's best stories, this unapologetically literary and ambitious book is cultural and artistic bricolage at its finest. 16 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Daugherty examines the life of Donald Barthelme, who came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement in the 1960s. Some of Barthelme's works include the short stories "Me and Miss Mandible" and "A Shower of Gold" and the novel "Snow White."

Synopsis:

A compellingly told and enthusiastic biography—makes a page-turner of Barthelmes passionate search for a place in American letters

Synopsis:

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE

During his fifty-eight-year lifetime Donald Barthelme published more than one hundred short stories in The New Yorker and authored sixteen books.  He was a contemporary and friend of Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer, and has received recent tributes from Dave Eggers and George Saunders.  He had a volatile private life and his search for a place in American letters took him across the country, briefly to Denmark, and through a host of occupations.  When he wasn't hiding, he was passionately searching and living.  Barthelme's writing is a found-art-style mix of pop culture and high literature that is surprisingly funny and playful.  This "excellent biography" (The New Yorker) "pursue[s] Barthelme's art to its shuddering core. . . . The enthusiasm is catching" (The Wall Street Journal).

Synopsis:

In the 1960s Donald Barthelme came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement. He was a fixture at the New Yorker, publishing more than 100 short stories, including such masterpieces as "Me and Miss Mandible," the tale of a thirty-five-year-old sent to elementary school by clerical error, and "A Shower of Gold,"in which a sculptor agrees to appear on the existentialist game show Who Am I? He had a dynamic relationship with his father that influenced much of his fiction. He worked as an editor, a designer, a curator, a news reporter, and a teacher. He was at the forefront of literary Greenwich Village which saw him develop lasting friendships with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Grace Paley, and Norman Mailer. Married four times, he had a volatile private life. He died of cancer in 1989. The recipient of many prestigious literary awards, he is best remembered for the classic novels Snow White, The Dead Father, and many short stories, all of which remain in print today.  This is the first biography of Donald Barthelme, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

About the Author

Tracy Daugherty's work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Georgia Review, and others. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. Once a student of Donald Barthelme's, he is now Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312378684
Subtitle:
A Biography of Donald Barthelme
Author:
Daugherty, Tracy
Publisher:
Picador
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
Postmodernism (Literature)
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Postmodernism (Literature) -- United States.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100202
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Plus two 8-page bandw photo inserts
Pages:
592
Dimensions:
8.82 x 6.46 x 605 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme Used Hardcover
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Product details 592 pages St. Martin's Press - English 9780312378684 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This sprawling first biography of the writer Donald Barthelme (1931 — 1989) complements an exemplary account of the man and his milieu with a history of 20th-century architecture, film, philosophy, visual art and political activism — not to mention a stunning exegesis of Barthelme's work and a surfeit of vignettes from New York literary life in the 1960s and '70s. Daugherty, a professor of English and creative writing at Oregon State and former student of Barthelme, renders the writer of The Dead Father in all his complexity: the experimental iconoclast, the 'establishment figure' without a university degree who published more than 100 stories in the New Yorker, the citizen-activist, admitted alcoholic, the devoted if distant father and the 'prankster on the page.' While Daugherty firmly takes Barthelme's side in his four troubled marriages, he assesses the writer's legacy, his champions and detractors (e.g., Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner and the 'hundreds' of readers who canceled their New Yorker subscriptions in 1968 to protest the publication of his catty Snow White). Like Barthelme's best stories, this unapologetically literary and ambitious book is cultural and artistic bricolage at its finest. 16 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "When, within a year's time, both Raymond Carver and Donald Barthelme succumbed in their fifties to cancer (Carver in August of 1988; Barthelme that next July), it was as if the reigning president and vice-president of the American Short Story had suddenly died. Both were beloved by peers and acolytes, though they struggled for readers, and each, in separate decades, had revitalized a genre that since the invention of television has been continually pronounced both moribund and in a condition of renaissance (recovering from moribund)...." (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
"Synopsis" by , Daugherty examines the life of Donald Barthelme, who came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement in the 1960s. Some of Barthelme's works include the short stories "Me and Miss Mandible" and "A Shower of Gold" and the novel "Snow White."
"Synopsis" by ,
A compellingly told and enthusiastic biography—makes a page-turner of Barthelmes passionate search for a place in American letters
"Synopsis" by ,

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE

During his fifty-eight-year lifetime Donald Barthelme published more than one hundred short stories in The New Yorker and authored sixteen books.  He was a contemporary and friend of Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer, and has received recent tributes from Dave Eggers and George Saunders.  He had a volatile private life and his search for a place in American letters took him across the country, briefly to Denmark, and through a host of occupations.  When he wasn't hiding, he was passionately searching and living.  Barthelme's writing is a found-art-style mix of pop culture and high literature that is surprisingly funny and playful.  This "excellent biography" (The New Yorker) "pursue[s] Barthelme's art to its shuddering core. . . . The enthusiasm is catching" (The Wall Street Journal).

"Synopsis" by ,

In the 1960s Donald Barthelme came to prominence as the leader of the Postmodern movement. He was a fixture at the New Yorker, publishing more than 100 short stories, including such masterpieces as "Me and Miss Mandible," the tale of a thirty-five-year-old sent to elementary school by clerical error, and "A Shower of Gold,"in which a sculptor agrees to appear on the existentialist game show Who Am I? He had a dynamic relationship with his father that influenced much of his fiction. He worked as an editor, a designer, a curator, a news reporter, and a teacher. He was at the forefront of literary Greenwich Village which saw him develop lasting friendships with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Grace Paley, and Norman Mailer. Married four times, he had a volatile private life. He died of cancer in 1989. The recipient of many prestigious literary awards, he is best remembered for the classic novels Snow White, The Dead Father, and many short stories, all of which remain in print today.  This is the first biography of Donald Barthelme, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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