The Essayist

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Donald Barthelme's Syllabus

by Kevin Moffett

There was a time when I fought against an impatience with reading, concealing, with partisanship, the fissures in my education. I confused difficulty with duplicity, and that which didn’t come easily, I often scorned. Then, in my last year of college in Gainesville, Florida, I was given secondhand a list of eighty-one books, the recommendations of Donald Barthelme to his students. Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time,was to attack the books “in no particular order, just read them,” which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do.

But first I had to find the books, a search that began at Gainesville’s Friends of the Library warehouse book sale. Early morning, the warehouse parking lot was filled with about fifty men, women, and children waiting for the doors to open. At the front of the line were the all-nighters, hard-core sci-fi fans, amateur Civil War historians, and chasers of obscurities, rumored to have been there since before midnight. Some had brought with them hibachis and coolers and battery-powered radios, giving the parking lot the feel of a Gator football pre-game with less angry hope.

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  1. fragments2011 reblogged this from penguinist
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  3. vanityismyonlychild reblogged this from literaryartifacts and added:
    This is fantastic.
  4. heavenisatruck reblogged this from literaryartifacts
  5. cal2neb reblogged this from literaryartifacts and added:
    Oh, Barthelme - you were the last great original writer, who stole mercilessness from Rabelais and everyone else.
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  7. severalversionsofjean reblogged this from literaryartifacts and added:
    I am always looking for what to read. So should you guys.
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    by Kevin Moffett There was a time when I fought against an impatience with reading, concealing, with partisanship, the...
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