August 11, 2009
What a book. I’m a big fan of Barthelme, we published one of his stories early on in Anyone is Possible and I’ve always followed his work. That had to be a hard family to grow up in. Kind of like the Baldwin brothers, only maybe worse. I mean having Alec as an older brother is one thing if you’re Stephen Baldwin. But if you’re Stephen Barthelme, who’s the younger brother, Red Hen is publishing his book later this year, or Frederick Barthelme, that has to be tough. Having Donald Barthelme as an older sibling. Sheesh, you really wonder, do you wish to change your last name? Do you fight with your older brother, worship him? I’ve never asked Stephen, he’s never really spoken to me. We don’t have that kind of editorial relationship. People always think you get to be friends with your authors. That depends on the author. I’ve spoken more with Rick over that one story than with Stephen over the book.
Back to Waveland. It’s a post-Katrina sad, boarded up, washed up life, Gulf Coast, take out food, what’s left of life after love, after excitement, after passion, after fun. After all that. When you’re down to Styrofoam food and no books, art or music, just television and take out food. And petty friendships and you follow it along, moving in and out of houses, and it’s sad and American. American houses on the average are like that. Huge televisions. No art, just family photographs and family vacations involve speed boats rather than discovery. It’s all like that. And a neighbor named Eddie who doesn’t seem quite right. A girlfriend named Greta whose sexy and found innocent of killing her husband so that’s all right, and then Gail the ex-wife with her young boyfriend who beats her. It’s all sad and almost too fluorescent to be believable. But there are little surprises that keep you going, and a sudden strange surprise at the book’s dusky end. And you realize that Rick at least has emerged from Donald’s shadows completely and has no sibling stuff to worry about and probably never did. He’s a big guy. Stephen Baldwin probably doesn’t either. This is a book worth reading, Americans do flop around through their lives, they flounder and flop. Queston: Do you have to live life on a grand scale to really make a difference? I have not answered that question yet.