The Indian Uprising by Donald Barthelme, 1968
The magic trick:
Not making any sense at all, yet still getting paid
Apologies to all Barthelme fans out there, and I know there are many. His kind of writing, especially early “classic” Barthelme, just isn’t my cup. Is it symbolism? Is it imagery for imagery’s sake? Is it a brave new language? Is it a step forward? Is it commentary? Is it poetry? Is it meta? Is it IMPORTANT?
I don’t know. I just find his writing just washes over me, a foul-smelling haze of faintly angry condescendence. Perhaps I will revisit this someday and the light will go on in my brain. For now, however, all is dark.
But, hey, Barthelme got published, got paid, got respect, and won a cult of devoted followers, many of whom cite him as a major influence on their own writing. And that’s quite a trick on Barthelme’s part.
Then it was learned that they had infiltrated our ghetto and that the people of the ghetto instead of resisting had joined the smooth, well-coordinated attack with zipguns, telegrams, lockets, causing that portion of the line held by IRA to swell and collapse. We sent more heroin into the ghetto, and hyacinths, ordering another hundred thousand of the pale, delicate flowers. On the map we considered the situation with its strung-out inhabitants and merely personal emotions. Our parts were blue and their parts were green.