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If it's not worth saying, you might as well not say it clearly
on 16 November 2014
These are simple, honest stories full of raw, emotional — actually, I jest. They’re the exact opposite of that. They’re elliptical, allusive, fragmentary and playful. They emit occasional flashes of anger and melancholy, but everything is refracted through a prism of artifice and dry wit.
Some of them I couldn’t make sense of at all. Most of the others appear to be about the art of writing short stories. They might condescend to allude to other things too, but Barthelme is always more interested in the medium than the message. Conventions are parodied and broken; plots are short-circuited or bypassed; there a violent non-sequiturs and frequent intrusions of the surreal into domestic vignettes. At worst, these stories are literature as crossword puzzle. At best, they’re genuinely surprising and quite funny.