Monday 13 May 2024

Languishing, Half-Deep in Summer by Donald Barthelme

The Bus Driver, 1962 by George Segal.

Here is another quick read by Donald Barthelme but it almost feels trivial and not worth any deep critical analysis. Or maybe I just didn't "get it", which can be the case with some of his more ambiguous works. The opening line is fantastic though: "Languishing, half-deep in summer, soul-sick and under-friended, I decided to find love." Since the author's writing tends to be parodic and  jocular in tone, this could also be a satirical nod to love poetry. The speaker's palpable sense of alienation and melancholy is conveyed with such eloquence. 

The narrator responds to a personal ad in a literary review (is this an actual thing?) and ends up going on a date with an eccentric woman named Mindy Sue. There seems to be some underlying social commentary regarding gender politics, publishing collectives and the difficulties of modern dating (not much has really changed in that regard). For example, when discussing the so-called "urban crisis", Mindy Sue has some strong views on the subject: "The true urban crisis, from my angle of vision, is marriage. All the good men are married, and most of the bad. There is nothing much left except lames, kiddies, and poor people. What can I do? You think I like describing myself as 'cultivated, sensuous'?" Her frustrations appear warranted, particularly as the pool of eligible and respectable men dwindles significantly in middle age. Nevertheless, she remains steadfast in her quest for the perfect match, which he finds admirable because it certainly won't be with him. Despite the narrator's prior yearning for love, he is less optimistic about his prospects, especially when it comes to dating Mindy Sue. A cynical and darkly amusing story at times but one that doesn't quite leave a whole lot to contemplate afterwards. 

You can read this story HERE.

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