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Donald Barthelme quotes (showing 1-30 of 89)

“The aim of literature ... is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart.”
Donald Barthelme, Come Back, Dr. Caligari
“Write about what you're afraid of.”
Donald Barthelme
“--Why are we fighting them?
--They're mad. We're sane.
--How do we know?
--That we're sane?
--Yes.
--Am I sane?
--To all appearances.
--And you, do you consider yourself sane?
--I do.
--Well, there you have it.
--But don't they also consider themselves sane?
--I think they know. Deep down. That they're not sane.
--How must that make them feel?
--Terrible, I should think. They must fight ever more fiercely, in order to deny what they know to be true. That they are not sane.”
Donald Barthelme
tags: war
“The death of God left the angels in a strange position.”
Donald Barthelme
“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that's not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it... he is insane because when he loved you, you didn't notice.”
Donald Barthelme
“—What do the children say?
—There's a thing the children say.
—What do the children say?
—They say: Will you always love me?
—Always.
—Will you always remember me?
—Always.
—Will you remember me a year from now?
—Yes, I will.
—Will you remember me two years from now?
—Yes, I will.
—Will you remember me five years from now?
—Yes, I will.
—Knock knock.
—Who's there?
—You see?

("Great Days," Forty Stories)”
Donald Barthelme
“There is no moment that exceeds in beauty that moment when one looks at a woman and finds that she is looking at you in the same way that you are looking at her. The moment in which she bestows that look that says, "Proceed with your evil plan, sumbitch.”
Donald Barthelme
“See the moon? It hates us.”
Donald Barthelme
“There was no particular point at which I stopped being promising.”
Donald Barthelme
“How can you be alienated without first having been connected?”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“Well chaps first I'd like to say a few vile things more or less at random, not only because it is expected of me but also because I enjoy it.”
Donald Barthelme, Snow White
“And I sat there getting drunker and drunker and more in love and more in love.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“But have you noticed the slight curl at the end of Sam II's mouth, when he looks at you? It means that he didn't want you to name him Sam II, for one thing, and for two other things it means that he has a sawed-off in his left pants leg, and a baling hook in his right pants leg, and is ready to kill you with either of them, given the opportunity. The father is taken aback. What he usually says, in such a confrontation, is "I changed your diapers for you, little snot." This is not the right thing to say. First, it is not true (mothers change nine diapers out of ten), and second it reminds Sam II of what he is mad about. He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that's not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it, he is insane because when he loved you, you didn't notice.”
Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father
“I believe that because I had obtained a wife who was made up of wife-signs (beauty, charm, softness, perfume, cookery) I had found love.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“The distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“Goals incapable of attainment have driven many a man to despair, but despair is easier to get to than that -- one need merely look out of the window, for example.”
Donald Barthelme
“The privileged classes can afford psychoanalysis and whiskey. Whereas all we get is sermons and sour wine. This is manifestly unfair. I protest, silently.”
Donald Barthelme, Amateurs
“Mother, have you noticed that this society we’re in tends to be a little…repressive?”
“What does that mean, Eugenie? What does that mean, that strange new word, ‘repressive,’ that I have never heard before?”
“It means…it’s like when you decide to do something, and you get up out of your chair to do it, and you take a step, and then become aware of frosty glances being directed at you from every side.”
“Frosty glances?”
“Your desires are stifled.”
“What desires are you talking about?”
“Just desires in general. Any desires. It’s a whole…I guess atmosphere is the…word…a tendency on the part of the society…”
“You’d better sew some more pillow cases, Eugenie.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“the thing about books is, there are quite a number you don't have to read.”
Donald Barthelme, The King
“Succeed! It has been done, and with a stupidity that can astound the most experienced.”
Donald Barthelme
“There is no moment that exceeds in beauty that moment when one looks at a woman and finds that she is looking at you in the same way that you are looking at her. The moment in which she bestows that look that says, "Proceed with your evil plan, sumbitch." The initial smash on glance. The, the drawing near. This takes a long time, it seems like months, although only minutes pass, in fact. Languor is the word that describes this part of the process. Your persona floats toward her persona, over the Sea of Hesitation. Many weeks pass before they meet, but the weeks are days, or seconds. Still, everything is decided. You have slept together in the glance.”
Donald Barthelme, Flying to America: 45 More Stories
“How can he be killed most easily? With the fewest stains?”
Donald Barthelme, Snow White
“The aim of literature," Baskerville replied grandly, "is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart.”
Donald Barthelme, Come Back, Dr. Caligari
“I have to admit we are locked in the most exquisite mysterious muck. This muck heaves and palpitates. It is multi-directional and has a mayor. To describe it takes many hundreds of thousands of words. Our muck is only a part of a much greater muck -- the nation-state -- which is itself the creation of that muck of mucks, human consciousness. Of course all these things also have a touch of sublimity -- as when Moonbelly sings, for example, or all the lights go out. What a happy time that was, when all the electricity went away! If only we could re-create that paradise! By, for instance, all forgetting to pay our electric bills at the same time. All nine million of us. Then we'd all get those little notices that say unless we remit within five days the lights will go out. We all stand up from our chairs with the notice in ours hands. The same thought drifts across the furrowed surface of nine million minds. We wink at each other, through the walls.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“Anathematization of the world is not an adequate response to the world.”
Donald Barthelme
“The Dead Father was slaying, in a grove of music and musicians. First he slew a harpist and then a performer upon the serpent and also a banger upon the rattle and also a blower of the Persian trumpet and one upon the Indian trumpet and one upon the Hebrew trumpet and one upon the Roman trumpet and one upon the Chinese trumpet of copper-covered wood. Also a blower upon the marrow trumpet and one upon the slide trumpet and one who wearing upon his head the skin of a cat performed upon the menacing murmurous cornu and three blowers on the hunting horn and several blowers of the conch shell and a player of the double aulos and flautists of all descriptions and a Panpiper and a fagotto player and two virtuosos of the quail whistle and a zampogna player whose fingering of the chanters was sweet to the ear and by-the-bye and during the rest period he slew four buzzers and a shawmist and one blower upon the water jar and a clavicytheriumist who was before he slew her a woman, and a stroker of the theorbo and countless nervous-fingered drummers as well as an archlutist, and then whanging his sword this way and that the Dead Father slew a cittern plucker and five lyresmiters and various mandolinists, and slew too a violist and a player of the kit and a picker of the psaltery and a beater of the dulcimer and a hurdy-gurdier and a player of the spike fiddle and sundry kettledrummers and a triangulist and two-score finger cymbal clinkers and a xylophone artist and two gongers and a player of the small semantron who fell with his iron hammer still in his hand and a trictrac specialist and a marimbist and a maracist and a falcon drummer and a sheng blower and a sansa pusher and a manipulator of the gilded ball.
The Dead Father resting with his two hands on the hilt of his sword, which was planted in the red and steaming earth.
My anger, he said proudly.
Then the Dead Father sheathing his sword pulled from his trousers his ancient prick and pissed upon the dead artists, severally and together, to the best of his ability-four minutes, or one pint.
Impressive, said Julie, had they not been pure cardboard.
My dear, said Thomas, you deal too harshly with him.
I have the greatest possible respect for him and for what he represents, said Julie, let us proceed.”
Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father
“You came and fell upon me, I was sitting in the wicker chair. The wicker exclaimed as your weight fell upon me. You were light, I thought, and I thought how good it was of you to do this. We'd never touched before.”
Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories
“All of us...still believe that the American flag betokens a kind of general righteousness. But I say...that signs are signs and some of them are lies.”
Donald Barthelme
“The confusing signals, the impurity of the signal, gives you verisimilitude, as when you attend a funeral and notice that it's being poorly done.”
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
“-You are killing me."

" -We? Not we. Not in any sense, we. Processes are killing you, not we. Inexorable processes.”
Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father

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