The Barthelme Problem

[This post is something of a response to John’s recent post, and some of the comments made there by Darby, John, and me.]

Back in high school/college, my favorite filmmakers were Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick, Peter Greenaway, and Martin Scorsese:

As you can see, I gravitated toward a visually spectacular cinema. Everything else looked so boring! So mundane!

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Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.


My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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Writers Stew: Mangla vs. Gerke

Joyce, Pound, Ford Madox Ford, John Quinn

Recently I sat down at my computer and had some exchanges with Ravi Mangla. Ravi lives Fairport, New York (near Rochester). His work has or will appear in Gargoyle, Annalemma, Sleepingfish and others. He created a site called Recommended Reading last May. Close to fifty writers have weighed in with lists and entertaining answers to Ravi’s questions. His stories run the gamut from the serious to the absurd. For instance, in ‘Low Brow,’ a Hindu family moves into the space between the narrator’s eyebrows.

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