Yup, I Read Now

The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme
October 21, 2009, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews and Final Opinions | Tags: ,

51MSYMSE4WLThe Dead Father is dead. I killed it. I don’t know how I did it, but I did, it’s done, I read Barthelme and won (<—unintentional rhyme). In The Dead Father—the most complicated book that I’ve read in the past two months, quite possibly the most complicated that I’ve read since becoming literate—a group of people drag the immense, somewhat dead, somewhat living body of a man known as the Dead Father across the countryside.

D.F. is a pitiful figure despite his apparent size—I don’t think any concrete measurements are ever given but we’re led to believe he’s rather huge, though not too huge—and is often berated by members of his travelling party. Why are they doing this, you ask. Well, it’s all very mystical and, at the same time, not mystical at all. Confusing? Yup! And then you get paragraphs that start like this:

The Dead Father was slaying in a grove of music and musicians. First he slew a harpist and then a performer upon the serpent and also a banger upon the rattle and also a blower of the Persian trumpet and one upon the Indian trumpet and one upon the Hebrew trumpet and one upon the Roman trumpet and one upon the Chinese trumpet of copper-covered wood.

I should have hated this book. But I didn’t. Though, the narrative is untraditional, to say the least—it’s digressive, surreal, and confusing, confusing, confusing—I loved The Dead Father and was actually moved by it. I think, in order to read and enjoy it, you have to be open to what Barthelme’s done and try to look at the book as an experience—an experience that’s going to be pretty rough and uncomfortable for a while.


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