brain aches and short stories

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Monday, January 05, 2009

I spent today having a headache, which was no fun at all. It was the stealth headache, which is my least favorite kind because it sneaks into the brain and hurts for HOURS before I realize what's going on. In the meantime it makes me irritable and prone to cringing like a dramatic headache baby at things involving: light, sound, smell. Also my printer ran out of black ink, although I don't suppose that has anything to do with my head hurting. (maybe I'm developing a new super-annoying strain of headache that actually leaves my body and does things to irritate me, like siphon off black ink. My migraine EVIL TWIN. Genius! I am awaiting my Nobel prize in headache/evil twin science. A Nobel, or maybe a cabinet position.) (Whenever I hear "cabinet position" I think things like "put me next to the SALT SHAKERS" and dumb stuff like that. Let's just say that's the headache hangover talking.)

ANYWAY, before I got all carried away with my headache politics and headache poltergeists/doppelgangers/evil twins, I meant to say "since somebody has put a hold on the library copy I have have had checked out since July, the time has come to talk a little about the Barthelme Sixty Stories collection."

I liked this a lot.

I read it over a period of a couple months -- the stories are very short (mostly), but they're so... much. (in a good way!) so much packed into so little, it was hard for me to read more than one or two at a time. Hard is the wrong word. I knew that if I read it in the usual page-turning manner, I wasn't going to have time to think at all about anything, let alone look up words I didn't know. (I love looking up words!) I read this mostly when I was on breaks at work. I made little notes to myself on the back of the hold slip I was using as a bookmark, which is how I found these quotes tonight, Headache Night.

I didn't love every story, and I can see how this collection could be irritating to someone who prefers their narrative straight up/straightforward/straight ahead, but overall... OH MY GOD. It was like having tiny jumper cables hooked directly to my brain delivering steady voltage with occasional surges where it was just so good I couldn't even look at it anymore.

These quotes are not necessarily from my favorite stories (although some of them are), and some of my favorite stories are not represented in quotes, but I think these give an inkling of what it's about. (although I would urge you to check it for yourself!)

from The Party, where King Kong is in attendance: "The mind carries you with it, away from what you are supposed to do, toward things that cannot be explained rationally, toward difficulty, lack of clarity, late-afternoon light."

from The Great Hug, in which Pin Lady and Balloon Man strike a balance: "Pin Lady tells the truth. Balloon Man doesn't lie, exactly. How can the Quibbling Balloon be called a lie? Pin Lady is more straightforward. Balloon Man is less straightforward. Their stances are semiantireprophetical. They're falling down the hill together, two falls out of three. Pin him, Pin Lady. Expand, Balloon Man."

from The New Music:
"--The body knows.
--The body is perspicacious.
--The body ain't dumb.
--Words can't say what the body knows."

from Me and Miss Mandible:
8 December
My enlightenment is proceeding wonderfully.

9 December
Disaster once again.

from Rebecca: "The story ends. It was written for several reasons. Nine of them are secrets. The tenth is that one should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever, no matter what is tattooed upon the warm tympanic page."
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