When Donald Barthelme died at the age of fifty-four, he was perhaps the most imitated (if not emulated) practitioner of American literature. Caustic, slyly observant, transgressive, verbally scintillating, Barthelme’s essays, stories, and novels redefined a generation of American letters and remain unparalleled for the way they capture our national pastimes and obsessions, but most of all for the way they capture the strangeness of life.
Not-Knowing amounts to the posthumous manifesto of one of our premier literary modernists. Here are Barthelme’s thoughts on writing (his own and others); his observations on art, architecture, film, and city life; interviews, including two never previously published; and meditation on everything from Superman III to the art of rendering “Melancholy Baby” on jazz banjolele. This is a rich and eclectic selection of work by the man Robert Coover has called “one of the great citizens of contemporary world letters.”