Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Things Found In Barthelme's 40 Stories

Not long after reading this 2001 Harper's piece attempting (in a half-serious, half-fanciful way) to link Donald Barthelme with the Dan Rather "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" incident using "clues" from Barthelme's stories (and some biographical overlap between Barthelme and Rather), I came across something that I couldn't believe Paul Limbert Allman, the author of the piece, had missed.  Allman mentions the famous "Courage" signoff that Rather adopted for a brief period in September 1986, a few weeks before the "Frequency" incident, but doesn't cite this passage from Barthelme's "The Catechist":

He reads: "A disappointing experience: the inadequacy of language to express thought. But let the catechist take courage." He closes the book. 
I think: courage.

The inadequacy of language to express thought.  If, in fact, Rather's attackers were attempting to convey a message to him in some kind of Barthelme code, perhaps Rather's "Courage" served as a (unintentional?) "trigger word".  Wheels within wheels...

In the story "110 West Sixty-first Street", there is a black man named Tiger who only sleeps with white women.

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