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 an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Donald Barthelme's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Tracy Daugherty about the life and work of Donald Barthelme – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.
It's no easy task to bring to life the words of one of the most celebrated post-modern fiction writers who influenced a generation of novelists. When the focus of a story is on wordplay and sentence fragments as it is in Donald Barthleme's best work - including this short novel The Dead Father - it's all too easy for the genius to be lost in narration. But Dennis Holland rises to the challenge and succeeds. His technique? A matter-of-fact cadence, with a bit of playfulness that softly highlights the absurd. It's this hint of wonder in his voice that lands his aural rendering somewhere between a dedicated teacher reading aloud from a manual and the narrator of the Dr. Seuss movie classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The Dead Father offers a world so absurd, that the absurdity is normal. The title character is a mostly-conscious, part-machine being who, though he speaks and acts and reasons, is, apparently, dead, and on one last journey. Fragments and simple sentences move the book along; everything is at once related and unrelated, as in this passage: "They continue to hold hands. And the Dead Father also gropes a bare foot with the hand that is not holding hands. Julie retracts foot. Thomas smokes. Events in the sky. Star falls, scattering in the dark part. Clouds moving implacably left to right. Offstage, toward the wings. Thomas smoking." And though the words alone may seem devoid of emotion, the novel ends in a heartbreaking scene - emotional because of the words and the events, but also because of the gentle narration that both pushes the narrative and floats along with its tide. Holland's performance of The Dead Father offers both an excellent introduction to a fiction master's work, and a fresh perspective for Barthleme devotees. - Kelly Marages
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