Barthelme Quotes

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Barthelme Quotes

Yes, the saint was underrated quite a bit, then, mostly by people who didnt like things that were ineffable ... ... a lot of people dont like things that are unearthly, the things of this earth are good enough for them, and they dont mind telling you so. "If hed just go out and get a job, like everybody else, then he could be saintly all day long ... " —from "The Temptations of St. Anthony," by Donald Barthelme
— Donald Barthelme —

How come you write the way you do?" an apprentice writer in my Johns Hopkins workshop once disingenuously asked Donald Barthelme, who was visiting. Without missing a beat, Don replied, "Because Samuel Beckett was already writing the way he does."
Asked another, smiling but serious, "How can we become better writers than we are?"
"Well," DB advised, "for starters, read through the whole history of philosophy, from the pre-Socratics up through last semester. That might help."
"But Coach Barth has already advised us to read all of literature, from Gilgamesh up through last semester ... "
"That, too," Donald affirmed, and twinkled that shrewd Amish-farmer-from-West-11th-Street twinkle of his. "You're probably wasting time on things like eating and sleeping. Cease that, and read all of philosophy and all of literature. Also art. Plus politics and a few other things. The history of everything.

— John Barth

I met Donald Barthelme when I was 30, and it's fair to say that before that moment, I was pre-modern, and after I met him, I was nudged rather forcefully towards this other end of the spectrum.

— Padgett Powell

I don't think Donald Barthelme would have minded being called a confusing writer. Confusion was a favorite subject for him in his essays and reviews, and it's enacted in his fiction in a mishmash of dizzying incongruities.

— Joanna Scott

The choices a writer makes within a tradition - preferring Milton to Moliere, caring for Barth over Barthelme - constitute some of the most personal information we can have about him.

— Zadie Smith

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