I Love a Good Donald Barthelme Anecdote, Don’t You?

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10/21/2009 1:33 PM |

Teachings of Don B

From a Times Magazine profile of Padgett Powell, a student and later friend of Bathelme’s at the University of Houston in the early 1980s:

“‘We have wacky mode,” Powell remembers Barthelme saying to his class, a writing workshop Powell was taking. “What must wacky mode do?” The students, clueless, stayed quiet. Barthelme said, “Break their hearts.”

In this, Wacky Mode serves a similar function to a strange object covered with fur.

(Incidentally, Powell’s new book is The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?, 165 pages of which every sentence is a question (“Should it still be Constatinople?” “Why won’t the aliens step forth to help us?” “Do you dance?”). We’ll have a [glowing] review in an upcoming issue of the L, but in the meantime, he reads tonight at 192 Books. Will he point to a different a different audience member after every question?)