Tuesday, August 26, 2008
7. Degrees of Don B., Part 1
Now that school is in session, it would behoove you little merrinks to, as Vanessa Hay once so intelligently said, "read a book." They're those rectangular things with the bendy white planes in them. Call your mother, she knows about these things. And reassure her that, even though you're away at Southwest Northern State U and Chicken Sexery, you're still upholding the tenets of Moroni. I'll wait.
We're up to speed and you've gotten a sandwich, so, a recommendation: Donald Barthelme. Not only was this man hilarious, capable of genius, and prodigiously bearded, he was also quite hard-wired into a fertile Texas psychedelic scene that was more than just The Thirteenth-Floor Elevators.
But back to Barthelme. I guess the word 'post-modern,' like the words 'gamelan' or 'irnoic' [sic], doesn't mean much any more now that Taco Bell ads regularly subvert the medium, but he was post-modern when that was a freak flag to fly high. From jump (read: "A Shower of Gold," which can be found at the link above) here was a man who knew that even if you weren't interested in absurdity, it was interested in you, and the stories follow humanity's Via Dolorosa towards a Golgotha where God doesn't answer not because he's dead, but because he was drafting his fantasy football team and drinking Lone Star.
So check out that fine collection at jessamyn.com, go buy all the short stories, go buy The Dead Father, set up a kegerator on your veranda and whiff it:
Barthelme's brother Frederick is a writer in his own right, most like Carver except his stories manage to be more sun-blasted and desolate. He also played in some of the earliest incarnations of The Red Krayola with Mayo Thompson, and here's where the six degrees take off. The Red Krayola, revolving around our boy Mayo, has been around since 1968, and the list of people who went through it reads like a phone book from Hipville. But for our purposes, let's just focus on someone who played with him in the third, Drag City incarnation: Jimbo Rourke. Sorry. Meant Jim O'Rourke.
At this point, you yourself are on the degrees of separation railway, because it is contractually obligated from when you are born that you will have to put out an album with Jim O'Rourke whether you want to or not.
So, let's review:
Donald Barthelme → Frederick Barthelme → Mayo Thompson → Red Krayola → Jim O'Rourke → Your Granny on Bongos → You.
See? You're cooler than you thought.