CHROMA: Stories by Frederick Barthelme

CHROMA: Stories

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Barthelme's fourth slender book since the beginning of his short career (Moon Deluxe, 1983; Second Marriage, 1984; Tracer, 1985) collects 15 slim fictions--slivers, not slices, of life--in the minimalist mode. Failed communication, loneliness, and alienation are the stuff of Barthelme's predictable little stories. Flat and monosyllabic, these more or less interchangeable vignettes reproduce the boredom and inanity of everyday life, at least as it's lived by the poor slobs who shop only at K-Mart and Sears, and ask questions like ""Are French fries really French?"" ""Cut Glass"" concerns ""a man in a room in a hotel in a city which is strange to him."" Similarly, ""Magic Castle"" finds ""a woman in the shopping mall sitting alone on a bench by a fountain painted that green reserved for fountains."" In many of these deliberately unilluminating tales, ""relationships"" are in one stage or another of decay. The narrator of ""Cleo,"" for example, can't remember exactly what's wrong between him and his lover, but the latter encourages him to sleep with their old friend Cleo while she's away. In the title piece--a case of ""organized infidelity""--a husband shares his wife with her young lover. Other stories (""Architecture,"" ""Aluminum House,"" and ""Reset"") tease with intimations of incest and perversion. And Barthelme's celebration of kitsch--his shopping-mall chic--is most apparent in ""Driver,"" where a pool salesman recaptures his lost ""weirdness"" by trading in his Toyota for a Lincoln low-rider. Literary junk food: McNuggets of meaningless fact that deserve only a non-caloric response.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1987
ISBN: 0802134610
Publisher: Simon & Schuster