Donald Barthelme was of course actually a consortium of 13 American academics. The books were produced using postal correspondence, and would in all honesty be rather 'dry and dusty' (full of rare words, tergiversatious narratives, and a cussed determination to make each next sentence unpredictable) - if you didn't know about the curiously named Bela Bluebeard. She was the Appalachian woman who first discovered the 'con' being perpetrated on the reading public (because, it is said, she slept with one of the academics' wives). Bela audaciously pretended to be both a man, AND the 'real' Barthelme - and then, when the embarrassed academics came clean, not only refused to concede that they were telling the truth, but went on to write a novel ('Snow White') that was every bit the equal of the academics' work. Even more interesting than all of this is that while none of the above is remotely true - it still might be. Barthelme's stories use urban American furniture, but they are essentially a 'Literary Achievement'. They invite comparison with pantheon-class writers. He can be witty in a phrase, but repetitiously tedious (or, as he might say, 'battologically boring') in a page. The result is impressively clever but substantially unmemorable. It's like that Tibetan saying used by the Dali Lama (no, really!) : 'The man of great intelligence is like a burning field: the fire passes quickly away'. Eclectic, indulgent, absurdist and decidedly not plot driven: reading a book of 60 such short stories is akin to eating a bowl of peas with a set of tweezers - you think you are NEVER going to reach the end. Barthelme himself once said, "Fragments are the only forms I..." but, thenagain, it would be contradicting him to complete the whole quote.