Donald Barthelme Quotes

Truth, as Bergson knew, is a hard apple, whether one is throwing it or catching it.

Donald Barthelme

I obey the Commandments, the sensible ones. Where they dont know what theyre talking about I ignore them. I keep thinking about the story of the two old women in church listening to the priest discoursing on the dynamics of the married state. At the end of the sermon one turns to the other and says, I wish I knew as little about it as he does.

Donald Barthelme

Self-criticism sessions were held, but these produced more criticism than could usefully be absorbed or accomodated.

Donald Barthelme

Originality is the last refuge of a hero...

Donald Barthelme

The present goal of the individual in group enterprises is to avoid dominance; leadership is felt to be a character disorder.

Donald Barthelme

In the contemplation of nudes, we congratulate ourselves upon the beauty of which human beings are capable. They reassure us about ourselves, about Being. We are a little lower than the angels, true, but notice that we can get along without that suspect radiance, equal parts paint and literature, on which the angels lean so heavily. The human body is, or can be, a sufficiency.

Donald Barthelme

Instant gratification is not as good as that gratification which comes dripping slow, over the sere seasons.

Donald Barthelme

I keep wondering if, say, there is intelligent life on other planets, the scientists argue that something like two percent of the other planets have the conditions, the physical conditions, to support life in the way it happened here, did Christ visit each and every planet, go through the same routine, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and so on...

Donald Barthelme

Is the new generation of writers more concerned than their predecessors with politics, economics, and social class? I think that there are lowered expectations, not sthetic expectations for the work, but lowered expectations in terms of life. My generation, perhaps foolishly, expected, even demanded, that life be wonderful and magical and then tried to make it so by writing in a rather complex way. It seems now quite an eccentric demand.

Donald Barthelme

A few years ago, you seemed worried that perhaps a lack of emotion was a weakness in your stories. A constant worry. Im still worried. I tell my students that one of the things readers want, and deserve, is a certain amount of blood on the floor. I dont always produce it. Probably a function of being more interested in other parts of the process.

Donald Barthelme

I say its realism, bearing on mind Harold Rosenbergs wicked remark that realism is one of fifty-seven varieties of decoration. What about the term experimental, which is often applied to your work? Its not quite a hostile remark, but it does contain within it the notion of the failed experiment. Something like Bone Bubbles was, yes, an experiment and although I wouldnt suggest it was wholly successful, I thought it worth publishing. Its something I do along with a number of other things.

Donald Barthelme

...I was trying to make fiction that was like certain kinds of modern painting. You know, tending toward the abstract. But its really very dicey in fiction, because if you get too abstract it just looks like fog, for example. Words, after all, have referents. They mean something colors don't. Not in the same way. So, the project is next to impossible, which is what makes it interesting. There's nothing so beautiful as having a very difficult problem. It gives purpose to life. And to work. I'm still worrying with it.

Donald Barthelme

...I think there are two devices that have clearly had an enormous impact on language. One is television. I dont wish to blame television for all the faults of the world, but it has had a vulgarizing effect. The other is the telephone, because we dont write letters anymore. I dont write lettersI dont even write business letters. I call up on the telephone. When people dont write letters, language deteriorates. Do you keep a journal? I keep a workbook with stray pieces of paper with things written on them. A kind of mulch pile.

Donald Barthelme

Becketts work is an embarrassment to the Void.

Donald Barthelme

In this century theres been much stress placed not upon what we know but on knowing that our methods are themselves questionableour Song of Songs is the Uncertainty Principle.

Donald Barthelme

Theres always the tension between losing an audience and doing the odd things you might want to try. The effort is always to make what you write nourishing or useful to readers. You do cut out some readers by idiosyncrasies of form. I regret this.

Donald Barthelme

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