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The Teachings of Don B. Paperback – March 31, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Review

...Barthelme's art was pre-eminently one of surprises, darting from satire to lyricism to poker-faced banality in a single paragraph.... The Teachings of Don B. is a small education in laughter, melancholy and the English language. -- The New York Times Book Review, James Marcus

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A hypothetical episode of Batman hilariously slowed down to soap-opera speed. A game of baseball as played by T.S. Eliot and Wilem "Big Ball" de Kooning. A recipe suitable for feeding sixty park-enamored celebrants at one's daughter's wedding. An outlandishly illustrated account of a scientific quest for God. These astonishing tropes of the imagination could only have been generated by Donald Barthelme, who, until his death in 1989, more or less goosed American letters into taking a quantum leap. Now sixty-three of Barthelme's rare or previously uncollected shorter works--including satires and fables, plays for stage and radio, and collages--have been assembled in a single volume. Gleeful, melancholy, erudite, and wonderfully subversive, The Teachings of Don B. is a literary testament cum time bomb, with the power to blast any reader into an altered state of consciousness.

"Barthelme happens to be one of a handful of American authors, there to make the rest of us look bad, who know instinctively how to stash the merchandise, bamboozle the inspectors, and smuggle their nocturnal contraband right on past the checkpoints of daylight 'reality.'"--Thomas Pynchon, from the Introduction

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679741194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679741190
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,456,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Allen on February 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
The critical consensus on Donald Barthelme is that he basically reinvented the short story during his lifetime (he died in 1989). While there is some exaggeration involved in this assessment -- at times, Barthelme seems to be doing nothing much more than channeling Kafka -- his work is unique, inventive, and experimental in the best sense of the word. The present collection contains many of his occasional and "lighter" works. A number of them, for example, originally appeared as unsigned pieces in "The New Yorker". If the collections "Sixty Stories" and "Forty Stories" can be seen as Barthelme's greatest hits, then "The Teachings of Don B." can be seen as the B-sides. The subtitle of the book calls this a collection of "satires, parodies, fables, illustrated stories, and plays," and the description fits. The title story is a send-up of Carlos Castenada's "Don Juan" books, and on the whole the volume is marked by a certain air of lightness and good humor. There is a stretch in the middle, consisting mainly of works that originally appeared between chapters in the book "Overnight to Many Distant Cities", that is somewhat slower and more ponderous than the surrounding text, but it doesn't last for long. Of particular interest are the illustrated stories, where the text is complimented by collages made from old photographs and illustrations, somewhat in the manner of the Surrealists. My only complaint about this book is the inclusion of three short plays at the end. While interesting, they don't quite mesh with the rest of the volume, and could easily have been published on their own. The collection also features an introduction by Thomas Pynchon, which in itself it worth the price of admission.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
With the possible exception of Thomas Pynchon, there isn't a writer around, living or dead (that I know of--I haven't read them all), who gives us a funnier, more accurate understanding of the absurdity of late twentieth-century existence than Barthelme, and it's good to have these previously uncollected pieces in one volume. The quality of this book is, I believe, remarkably even, but some pieces hit me harder than others. No one could have written "Here's the Ed Sullivan Show" but DB; what an eye the guy had!
Read this book (or SIXTY STORIES or SNOW WHITE) and you will not be able to look at the world in the same way again. DB knew better than most what petty, unexamined, selfish lives we live (but this is not to say that DB was mean spirited). Does he give solutions? Sort of, but not solutions that I am capable of paraphrasing. There may be readers for whom DB's teachings will seem pointless and not worth the trouble. (To them I say, "Back to your Grisham and Steele!") But for most of the rest of us--as bombarded as we are with insulting campaign pitches, thisandthat.com (!) ads, news of how the market is making us all wealthy, endless blockbuster film versions of mediocre TV shows, more tripe about what a great president Reagan was and on and on--DB can function as a sort of philosophical ophtalmologist with a rare antidote that will both make us laugh at and feel a bit grim about our consumer society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Anyone familiar with Barthelme's short stories knows what a joy they are. This recent reprint collects loads of Borges-sized nuggets not available in his other collections, and they will leave you in stitches. "When I didn't win the New York State lottery" seemed poignant to me after buying my first lotto ticket for the big prize, and planning out what to do with the hypothetical winnings. There are dozens of stories, two plays, and more here. A must have for Barthelme fans, and it has an introduction that is actually worth reading by Pynchon.
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