The Dead Father is a gargantuan half dead, half alive, part mechanical, wise, vain, powerful being who still has hopes for himself even while he is being dragged by means of a cable toward a mysterious goal In this extraordinary novel, marked by the imaginative use of language that influenced a generation of fiction writers, Donald Barthelme offered a glimpse into his fictional universe As Donald Antrim writes in his introduction, Reading The Dead Father, one has the sense that its author enjoys an almost complete artistic freedom a permission to reshape, misrepresent, or even ignore the world as we find it Laughing along with its author, we escape anxiety and feel alive


10 thoughts on “The Dead Father

  1. Vit Babenco Vit Babenco says:

    Time passes and humankind keeps hauling a corpse of dead traditions, customs, beliefs, misconceptions and rituals along the trail of historyYou are killing me We Not we Not in any sense, we Processes are killing you, not we Inexorable processes Even if some dogmas and tenets are discarded in the process of the constant progress they don t let us go and we keep carrying this burden of the past on our backs.


  2. Brian Brian says:

    A live wire of PoMo bliss, The Dead Fatherreads very much like the source for so many books in the genre that have come after I understand Marcus The Age of Wire and Stringmuch better and now want to re read it.Having just finished the memoir Double Down written by Don Barthelme s younger brothers, I was able to clearly divine the influence of the troubled relationship Don had with his father in this work The Dead Father is a monstrous hilarious ribald construct of a thing, and the charac A live wire of PoMo bliss, The Dead Fatherreads very much like the source for so many books in the genre that have come after I understand Marcus The Age of Wire and Stringmuch better and now want to re read it.Having just finished the memoir Double Down written by Don Barthelme s younger brothers, I was able to clearly divine the influence of the troubled relationship Don had with his father in this work The Dead Father is a monstrous hilarious ribald construct of a thing, and the characters of the novel orbit the titular protagonist with occasional collision producing sparks and carnage.The author died of cancer before his own father perished As in all things father son, the inverse is not an equal equation I wonder if his father read this work before Don s death After Ever


  3. Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly says:

    Imagine an alien from a remote, little planet in a galaxy so far, far away It is a literary genius, and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner in his planet He hurls into space aboard a spaceship and lands in England where people speak and write English A few days after hearing and reading English the alien says in his own language, of course I can also write a great novel in English This book could be the novel such an alien could have written.I have never read anything like it before.It t Imagine an alien from a remote, little planet in a galaxy so far, far away It is a literary genius, and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner in his planet He hurls into space aboard a spaceship and lands in England where people speak and write English A few days after hearing and reading English the alien says in his own language, of course I can also write a great novel in English This book could be the novel such an alien could have written.I have never read anything like it before.It tells a story In English But in an out of this world English.If you re a literature professor, you can assign this book to your students as their reading assignment Then you ask them to retell the story in this book and I am sure the third world war will start right there in your classroom.You wouldn t know what I mean unless you read this book yourself Or, perhaps, until I give you an example.The scene as I understood it two lovers, Thomas and Julie conversing Thomas starts criticizing Julie Julie criticizes back, says Thomas is too self absorbed Then she betrays her jealousy about another pretty girl Thomas knew, Emma Says she had seen him eyeing Emma Thomas defends himself by saying Emma is goodlooking and, anyway, he and Julie are not married That nothing lasts forever Julie, angry, nevertheless takes off her clothes Thomas is aroused, accepts Julie s invitation to make love, but nonetheless says it doesn t change the way he thinks Julie says he is a fool, but a lucky one because despite everything, she loves him Then they make love, missionary style, with Julie s legs up in the air, held by Thomas With him in the throes of ecstasy, Julie asks Thomas if Emma is as good in bed as her Thomas gives a non committal answer Julie then flicks his balls with her finger and Thomas cries in pain Julie sneers and tells Thomas not to worry because the pain won t last forever.Nice But how did the alien tell this story Here There are some times when you are not too bright, said Thomas Times when I am not too what Bright, said Thomas, there are some times when you are not too bright Well fuck you, she said Well fuck YOU, Thomas said, there are some times when I forget and tell the truth Sloppy, sloppy, she said Self pity monstrously unattractive Oh well damn well yes I m sorry But I am taking action, am I not I could as well have sat at home, worn the cap and bells and bought lottery tickets hoping for the twist of fate that would change my life Me, she said Me, me There is that You and I, she said, reaching into her knapsack for a bit of bhang Have a chew Not now, thanks You and I, she said, the two of us Thomas began counting on his fingers Yes, he said And Emma, she said I ve seen you looking at her I look at everything, Thomas said Everything that is in front of me Emma is in front of me Therefore I look at Emma And she at you, Julie said, I ve seen some gazes She s not bad looking, Thomas said But we, you and I, care for each other, Julie said It is a fact A temporary fact, said Thomas Temporary Expectoration of bhang juice emphatic My God, I m simply telling the truth, said Thomas Viper, she said I know no better soul, he said, and the body is also attractive Measuring, are you A measuring man Julie cramminghemp into her mouth You forget the decay of time, Thomas said, I never forget it I don t like it Who likes it I put out of mind that which is injurious to mind You revel in it The two of us, she said, damn it, can t you get this simple idea into your head The two of us against the is Temporarily, said Thomas Oh you are a viper A student of decay, is all Julie began to unbutton her shirt Yes, that s a way, said Thomas Fifteen minutes or in the best case, thirty five Come crawl behind a bush with me With all my heart, said Thomas, but I cannot abandon what I know One doesn t find an absolute every day You are an apprentice fool, she said, not even a full fool, nevertheless I will give you a little taste, because I like you You are a lucky dog Thomas spoke a long paragraph to the effect that this was true Julie pulling at Thomas s sleeve Thomas and Julie underneath the bush Thomas holding Julie s feet in his hands Wash feet, he said Yes now that you mentioned it, she said I will wash them for you if you wish Not necessary, I know the drill Washcloth, he said That s the little blue square one Right Rough textured I ve seen it Usually damp I remember I could just put some bags on them I suppose, heavy canvas bags with locks like the Mail Department uses Oh misery me The backs of the knees are on the other hand positively lustrous Not too bad are they Nine lines and a freckle, all immaculate Nothing to be desired The height of Could an Emma do as well I don t know, said Thomas I ll have to think about it.Julie made a circle of thumb and forefinger and popped him smartly on the ball Anguish of Thomas It will pass, she said, dearly beloved, it is only temporary Have you read anything like this before


  4. Tom Tom says:

    To understand my rating, you need to do some basic math.Most of the book, I thought was a 3 star deal, mainly because I found some of the sections particularly the long moments when Emma and Julie talked to each other to be borderline incomprehensible, and while I m sure Barthelme knew exactly what he was doing, it was one of those situations where I was holding a book in my hands and processing words and then feeling stupid And maybe I was too dense to understand what was going on, but regar To understand my rating, you need to do some basic math.Most of the book, I thought was a 3 star deal, mainly because I found some of the sections particularly the long moments when Emma and Julie talked to each other to be borderline incomprehensible, and while I m sure Barthelme knew exactly what he was doing, it was one of those situations where I was holding a book in my hands and processing words and then feeling stupid And maybe I was too dense to understand what was going on, but regardless of reasons or my level of denseness, point is there were about 15 20 pages in here that I didn t understand at all But that which I understood was funny and smart and interesting and well done So, 3 stars.But, the 30 ish page Manual for Sons inset about 3 4 of the way through was so awesome, I give that 7 stars So 7 3 10, 10 2 5 5 stars Totally useful and objective review


  5. Nathanimal Nathanimal says:

    Some of the conflicting thoughts that ran through my mind as I read thisMy, Barthelme is funny.And smart.Sometimes he s also obnoxious.His bag of tricks is clever and sophisticated.If I m being honest, though, I like a novel better than I like a bag of tricks.I m probably not very sophisticated.Was there a male writer from the 2nd half of the 20th Century whose writing about sex wasn t a total embarrassment It s like they all went to the same school of sex for schoolboys.This Dead Father Some of the conflicting thoughts that ran through my mind as I read thisMy, Barthelme is funny.And smart.Sometimes he s also obnoxious.His bag of tricks is clever and sophisticated.If I m being honest, though, I like a novel better than I like a bag of tricks.I m probably not very sophisticated.Was there a male writer from the 2nd half of the 20th Century whose writing about sex wasn t a total embarrassment It s like they all went to the same school of sex for schoolboys.This Dead Father thing is a good image It means lots of things at once Broadly allegorical Like Kafka I approve.And if the Dead Father is, among other things, capital L literature then what a winning example of post modernism this book is.It s very fun to laugh at the Dead Father and to be very French and deconstruct y and take the Dead Father out at the knees.At the end of the day, though, I m not sophisticated or heartless enough and I go running back and say I m sorry Dead Father I love you I love you Capital L literature doesn t seem deserving of being taken out at the knees.Sometimes I m very confused and Barthelme doesn t try very hard to help me understand what s going on Is this the desired effect or did he just expect I d be as smart as he is Lighten up He s just playing Playing is very important, you say so all the time It s not very playful to say what s important all the time, Nathanimal Sorry Yes, play is important, but I think I ve lately been lured towards other qualities, like eccentricity, like vulnerability, like quiet. Now I ve just started Emmanuel Bove s My Friends, which, after this, is like crawling into warm pajamas after coming home from a loud party


  6. Rayroy Rayroy says:

    Ascending the granite steps of the grand city library, a library sharing space with a museum, fossilized dinosaurs can be seen in the rows of fiction behind the glass walls Been dead for while Jill Hill and Thad Dade carry books towards the book return box.What s that thin sliver book It s The Dead Father.The Dead Father, is he a zombie No just dead but alive.Dead but alive, then he s a zombie.No, he s giant.I don t fallow.You don t fallow.No.It s Post Modern He s dead in a different sense, i Ascending the granite steps of the grand city library, a library sharing space with a museum, fossilized dinosaurs can be seen in the rows of fiction behind the glass walls Been dead for while Jill Hill and Thad Dade carry books towards the book return box.What s that thin sliver book It s The Dead Father.The Dead Father, is he a zombie No just dead but alive.Dead but alive, then he s a zombie.No, he s giant.I don t fallow.You don t fallow.No.It s Post Modern He s dead in a different sense, it isn t like that awful Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, you liked.I Read Sci Fi.I know.Fantasy.Metafiction cantors Thad.Romance.Contempary.Memoirs.Memoirs are the worst.Spare me Mr Post Metacontempary.You wouldn t much like The Dead Father.I would too.You would You would I can fly then.Well Mr Smarty pants what s it about.Where to beginBegin at the start.It s not like that.How Well there s no plot, the dead father is 7 meters tall or 22 feet, is being dragged by cables by 23 or was 19 people, and he speaks from time to time.How cruel of them to be dragging him.He s dead doesn t matter, when he talks he complains, reflects.Does he have a thundering voice No it s just normal and he uses normal size items, eats normal size food, his size is only referred to a small amount.Thad and Jill now descend the steps and enter the park Dogs on leashes Owners carry bags of poop Fathers and Sons Playing catch Playing Frisbee A Father yells at his song for eating dirt near a slide Son we do not eat dirt, why son do you still eat dirt still disobey me.It s just The Dead Father never did it for me, there were moments that floored me, but much of it I wasn t impressed, though it says a lot about fathers and sons I suppose the dead father is sort of like a God to the people in the book, but he s dead, you know Neiztche said that God was dead.Yeah I felt the same way reading the Girl Who books, by book two I didn t care too much.Can t compare.They are all books.Yes.They are books.Yes but they are totally different complex or simple.So I m simple then No but you read simple books.You re so smug and rightness.Are you turned on Turned on hardlyYour turned on you can t help it.You aren t my type.Type You re too skinny.Too skinny, should I be too fat.I like a man with a rugby player s body strong legs, firm grip, and a man who doesn t waste time reading unless it s box scores in the sports sectionReadings a waste of time No,a man who reads a lot, gets lost in books is a turn off for womenI don t believe it Believe it Stop spending all you free time in booksNever


  7. David Beavers David Beavers says:

    My favorite work of Barthelme s, and one of my favorite books ever I d give it 8 out of 5 stars, but Goodreads has no HTML code for this A book for anyone who has a father, who had a father, who had an absent father, who had a father who loved too much or not enough or the right amount a father who beat them or taught them to ride a bike or both A book perhaps not for fathers, but a book for fathers who had fathers themselves and so, a book for fathers.This is the story of a son his love My favorite work of Barthelme s, and one of my favorite books ever I d give it 8 out of 5 stars, but Goodreads has no HTML code for this A book for anyone who has a father, who had a father, who had an absent father, who had a father who loved too much or not enough or the right amount a father who beat them or taught them to ride a bike or both A book perhaps not for fathers, but a book for fathers who had fathers themselves and so, a book for fathers.This is the story of a son his lover, and how the son and daughter as well, though admittedly this isabout fathers and sons than fathers and daughters with a small army of laborers is dragging his father across the desert, presumably towards burial The father as fathers tend to be is larger than life figuratively literally his measurement is listed at 3200 cubits, and even this absurd archaic measurement speaks to the character of the Father a thing vast and yet past its prime mythic and absurd The father as fathers are wont to do orates, and the book is filled with his fabulous, illuminating, and hilarious speeches One of my favorites is the father listing things he has fathered in his long reign as father, which include the poker chip, the cash register, the kazoo, the cuckoo clock, and the bubble pipe Occasionally, the father as fathers sometimes do rampages at one point slaughtering scores of musicians woodland creatures before his son reigns him in The title of the book is a proleptic statement the father is not yet dead, but all fathers die, and the march of dragging him across the desert is the effort to meet the prolepsis of the title.That the book is a metaphor of fathers and sons and the process of moving from one to another this is why it isconcerned with sons than daughters, I think, because sons are the ones who must become fathers is somewhat implicit It is a procession to bury the father, oraccurately, to remove him from the son s life The father rails against his removal as a figure of authority, and yet is arrogant enough to believe he could never truly be removed The father as father s so often are is incalculably wise, ridiculously foolish is learned in the way a father aught to be, and his confidence arrogance also make him into a fool His son is, of course, arrogant in the way that the young who plot their ascension are arrogant It is a beautiful book in that way.Barthelme isn t usually interested in the emotional nuances of his characters, who are scarcely characters so much as they are figments of some dream being woven he treats his characters very much the way Italo Calvino doesas products of our collective unconscious than as characters Barthelme also writes with all the tics of the ardent post modernists from which he sprang in the 60s look no further than the quiz in the middle of his book Snow White, asking the reader how they like the book if the metaphors are working for them , and their concern is appropriately with deconstruction not romanticism Let s not bind Barthelme into that though, and if any literary term raises the hackles it s post modernism But despite the eerie detachment and all the absurdity, this book is extraordinarily devastating and deeply affecting The last line of the book a single word, which I will not spoil here was a deep heavy punch to my solar plexus It still takes the wind out of me to think of.This novel has in its middle an inexplicable and brief treatise, a kind of mini book, entitled A Manual For Sons This is the heart of the matter The Dead Father is as much about sons as fathers, and the absurdity that the two are so different when there can be no fathers who were not once sons The humor and insight here is trenchant and beautiful Consider this excerpt The penises of fathers are traditionally hidden from the inspection of those who are not clubbable as the expression runs These penises are magical, but not most of the timeOccasionally a child, usually a bold six year old daughter, will request permission to see it This request should be granted, once But only in the early morning, when you are in bed, and only when an early morning erection is not present Yes, let her touch it lightly, of course , but briefly Do not permit her to linger or get to interested Be matter of fact, kind, and undramatic Pretend, for the moment, that it is as mundane as a big toeAbout sons you must use your own judgement It is injudicious as well as unnecessary to terrify them you have many other ways of accomplishing that For all the book s absurdity and mythic humor, Barthelme is clearly speaking to some very deep fears and humbling human problems I love this book The father as a figure of dailiness and the father as a mythic figure are both on display here, and they are both treated with equal measures of cruelty and reverence


  8. T T says:

    I don t yet understand how he was able to make this so emotional at the end, how so silly got so serious so fast without ruining the experience I don t yet understand, but I will bygod I will.


  9. James Murphy James Murphy says:

    I remember reading this twice in the 70s, but I didn t remember much about it I remember thinking I got it pretty well Now I m unsure if my understanding is complete Because Roland Barthes said the reader is creator of the text I wonder if we re being encouraged here to create because it s so shotgun patterned that it seems to suggest rather than to mean or define It s a novel about myth and the hero The dead father serves as all myth as well as all the cultural weight we ve accumulated an I remember reading this twice in the 70s, but I didn t remember much about it I remember thinking I got it pretty well Now I m unsure if my understanding is complete Because Roland Barthes said the reader is creator of the text I wonder if we re being encouraged here to create because it s so shotgun patterned that it seems to suggest rather than to mean or define It s a novel about myth and the hero The dead father serves as all myth as well as all the cultural weight we ve accumulated and lug around with us as we live our lives Barthelme probably meant it to be Oedipal and Freudian, the sons wanting to kill the father representing tradition and the daughters striving to change the world and give it direction The novel s distinctive in its page after page of dialogue The fall of these short statements down the page fashions a look which creates or the reader creates both a sterile landscape through which the hero journeys and the line of cable and men pulling him through that landscape Ultimately Barthelme s text references all the touchstones of western tradition and houses them in the father where they re overthrown Actually, overthrown implies confrontation Tradition is weakened by the surversive dialogue of daughters, wives, and sons and in the end, rather than being tumbled, traditional culture, literature, and history willingly lies down and is buried And is replaced by the postmodernism of Barthelme and others But reading it I thought mostly of Samuel Beckett


  10. Adam Mills Adam Mills says:

    The Dead Father is the story of your everyday, average funeral procession for a 200 foot tall father figure who s bloodlust and libido have not been quelled by death Barthelme comically relates the influence that Greco Roman and Judao Christian traditions have had on literature and life in the occidental world. Thethe narrative tries to free itself of these cosmologies the harder they pull them back into the fold.The protagonists and their entourage painstakingly drag the dead father tThe Dead Father is the story of your everyday, average funeral procession for a 200 foot tall father figure who s bloodlust and libido have not been quelled by death Barthelme comically relates the influence that Greco Roman and Judao Christian traditions have had on literature and life in the occidental world. Thethe narrative tries to free itself of these cosmologies the harder they pull them back into the fold.The protagonists and their entourage painstakingly drag the dead father to his grave Though dead this statuesque authority mad patriarch is still commenting and complaining, trying to run his own funeral from his own bier It s the riddle of the sphinx writ large as his doddering old age has caused him to resort to childishly begging to vent his frustrations by killing, maiming, and raping Dragging this giant carcass through strange countries presents logistical problems and elicits questions from the locals.This absurdist post modern novel is in conversation with other comic works Neo Classicism and High Modernism are lampooned partly for their role as torch bearer for the Greco Roman and Judeo Christian values embodied in the dead father Swift s Gulliver s Travels and Joyce s Finnegans Wake seem particularly present, and by this move Barthelme has inserted himself into the canon he desperately wants to burry Neither the novel s humor nor its poignant message suffer for this fact, however, and The Dead Father is both an entertaining and important work.