GUILTY PLEASURES by Donald Barthelme


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Persiflage! Barthelme's little knives go in like butter, and he twists them just a hair. That Cosmo Gift and the Playboy bunny image are among his targets, and so is Time-ese. As for satirizing the Nixon administration, we've had such a bellyful of that that the laughs don't come easy anymore. Nevertheless don't they all deserve every nasty wise-ass mot of this poison-tipped pen. Castaneda may never recover from ""The Teachings of Don B.: A Yankee Way of Knowledge"" -- Carlitos is strangled slowly, v-e-r-y slowly with the rope of his own ingenuous style. No more just parody exists in the English language. On the other hand, Barthelme does a good turn by renovating the old-fashioned ""Eugenie Grandet."" Eugenie, you see, wasn't fondled enough as a child: in fact, ""Balzac himself wasn't fondled enough!"" ""L'Lapse"" (a scenario for Antonioni) ridicules the meaning of meaninglessness (and art-film making and blurb-writing reviewers. . .) and the author's liberal use of brand-names and famous-names twits the meaninglessness of mass-culture meaning, which is, after all, where we live. The eternal ""Ed Sullivan Show"" is in no danger of being upstaged by the likes of this contumelious Barthelme: not that really big shew of mediocrities, PR properties and intellectual rip-offs. This book's wavelength is popular cultish mythology and after the accounts of soggy pulpy products and games designed to stifle ennui, it ends with a listing of Nothingness -- a task which ""will remain always before us, like a meaning for our lives."" Virtuoso exercises in wit and literary legerdemain, with a touch of nonsense and sometimes even poignancy.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1974
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux