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Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE

Duringhis fifty-eight-year lifetimeDonald Barthelme published more than one hundred short stories in The New Yorker and authored sixteen books. He was a contemporary and friend of Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon,Susan Sontag,and Norman Mailer, and has received recent tributes from Dave Eggers and George Saunders. He had a volatile
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Paperback, 581 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Picador (first published February 3rd 2009)
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Paul Bryant
Born with unfortunately deformed eyebrows which gave his countenance a permanent look of ironic disbelief undisguisable even by sunglasses, Donald Barthelme’s life prospects, you may have thought, were severely limited. Because of his eyebrows, he never succeeded at job interviews and after some early unfortunate experiences never attended any funerals.

However, in 1961, at the age of 30, he hit upon the idea which made him famous. This was the simple yet profound concept of naming the features o
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John
Mar 09, 2009 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone seeking to matter in the arts
Recommended to John by: I'd been hearing about it for a number of years
This one reached my desk last week, I finished it over the weekend, & rightly or wrongly, I've bumped aside a few GR-worthy items in order to put in a few words for this masterly bio. Tracy Daugherty begins w/ a crucial understanding, namely, that Donald Barthelme's life & career set a challenge for American imaginative literature, for what it holds valuable. So this entire espresso-rich compendium of pertinent life-detail -- reaching back to the founding of Houston & of Greenwich Vi ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
For admirers of Donald Bartheleme's fiction, or any reader of his work looking to crack open some of his literary puzzles, this biography is an absolute must. It's also recommended for anyone interested in reading about how a writer begins, hits his stride, develops and deepens a career over a lifelong body of work.

The author, Tracy Daugherty, was a student of Barthelme's and brings an appealing affection to his portrayal. More than that, he deeply admires Barthelme's singular writing style -- t
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James Murphy
Think of the biographer as blacksmith. By beating the hammer of the artist against the anvil of his work he shapes the horseshoe of biography. I kinda felt that because Daugherty's critical commentary on Barthelme's work lacked punch he left the man as artist not quite rounded enough. Actually, what I think is that Daugherty's discussion of the stories seemed cogent and understanding but that the criticism of the novels wasn't comprehensive enough. It's through those novels--The Dead Father and ...more
Latanya Mcqueen
How can you not love this man with a story like the following from one of his ex-wives:

"In 1956, I went to France, to the University of Paris, and got a doctoral degree. I left Donald my car. In 1959, I saw him in Houston, to get the car back..He told me the car had needed two things: It needed to be painted and it needed new brakes. He couldn't afford both. So he'd gotten it repainted."

Or the recounted conversation from friend Herman Gollob. A couple nights before, Gollob was having dinner with
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Jason Jordan
For anyone who wants to learn more about Donald Barthelme and his work, Hiding Man is the place to start. Daugherty's biography is comprehensive, and will lead to far greater understanding of Barthelme's stories and novels. It has its dry moments that are perhaps too tangential--Barthelme's father is dwelled on, as is philosophy--though such topics do warrant inclusion, needless to say. Additionally, Hiding Man is well designed and contains numerous pictures. Definitely worth the read.
Matthew
Back in the late 1960's and up through the 1980's, it would have been hard to pick up an issue of the New Yorker that did not contain work or at least a mention of Donald Barthelme. One of the great experimental writers of his day, he also managed to breach through and gain a level of mainstream popularity. Now readers can finally get a thorough look at his often guarded life with Tracy Daugherty's thoughtful and beautifully written biography Hiding Man.

Son of a successful architect, Barthelme g
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Tim Fiester
I've been a big fan of Barthelme's stories, from the New Yorker and my college classes. I liked how he used sentence structure in innovative ways, incorporating clever and humorous word play and jokes. "The Dead Father" is a very powerful book about the tensions within a family of an absent, yet dominant father and the obligations the children feel toward that figure. So, for someone who still aspires to one day write a book and hopes to see it published, I wanted to read and possibly learn some ...more
Brian
Hiding Man, Tracy Daugherty's biography of Donald Barthelme, is an investigation of the education of an artistic sensibility. Barthelme never actually finished college, though he may have had enough credits for two BAs. The twelve years of Barthelme's life from eighteen to thirty are a long apprenticeship, working in journalism as his hero Hemingway did; going to Korea with the army and mostly reading; writing speeches for the president of the University of Houston; managing a great small magazi ...more
Shannon
This is one of the best author's biographies I've read in a very long time, not that I've read that many. Since I discovered him my freshman year of college (thanks, MTV) Donald Barthelme has been one of my favorite writers, and the one about whose life I knew almost next to nothing. This book handsomely rectifies that lack of knowledge, and more importantly it's brought me back to his work--picking up my old copy of Sixty Stories and will be making my way through all of the wonders in there.

Hig
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Troy
Brillant book about a brillant man. Last 60 pages lacked a little. Not sure if that's because Barthelme was "settling," which was the implication, or if Daugherty was running out of steam.

I found myself relating to Barthelme's restlessness, desire to experiment in his writing, and his sometimes frustrations when others just didn't "get it."

By the way, no way am I comparing myself, or my writing, to Barthelme; he's just another writer I admire and find myself "understanding."
Alex
This is a good example of excellent literary biography. It's instructive without being didactic, compassionate and reverent without slipping into mere encomium. Very thorough, too, in placing Don B. where he stood and where he wrote. Highly recommended.
Paul
Fabulous. One of the most inspiring and enjoyable non-fiction books I've ever read. Maybe the only biography I've ever read completely. And I can't imagine that I enjoyed this bio so much only because I'm a big Barthelme fan. It was just really good. Barthelme's knowledge of and connection to the art world of the 50s, 60s, and 70s means you get a bunch of art history, and it's an insider's perspective on things (e.g. he was good friends with Elaine DeKooning). There's also a lot of philosophy, a ...more
M Griffin
An enjoyable, informative and interesting literary biography about a writer who was among my favorites in college. Barthelme's work is always challenging, undeniably "serious" literature, yet it's almost always fun and entertaining to read. Here the biographer gives us what feels like a complete and honest portrait of a man who was brilliant yet self-defeating, and both selfish and generous. Having read this, I feel less sure I would have liked Donald Barthelme personally had I met him, yet my r ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics unanimously applaud Daugherty for the first comprehensive, analytical biography of his former teacher. The Oregonian calls Hiding Man a "remarkably tender, sympathetic treatment" of Barthelme, and while Daugherty may have given Barthelme a glowing biography, he doesn't downplay his more negative traits. The book also does an excellent job of connecting the writer to his literary and social context. The Oregonian notes that while Barthelme can be difficult to read, "in Daugherty's hands t

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Tim
Sep 21, 2009 Tim is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and very well-written--dare I slap that label "literature" on its underbelly? Great little dollops like about Barthelme's blackouts as a kid (those black squares in "The Explanation," not to be overly simplistic about them, but it's hard to look at them in the same way after reading this, not to mention the other synaptic chasms Barthelme's work traverses), and how about how his dad raised them to believe that "all activity--sitting in a chair, eating dinner hammering a nail, climbin ...more
Gregzeck
A wonderful review of Barthelme's equally fascinating art and life. Daugherty, who was a student of DB's at the University of Houston, knows his subject as both man and artist; he draws Barthelme sympathetically but certainly not without faults. He is an astute reader of DB's fictions and puts him fascinatingly in his place in the New York City art scene, as by reference to the Willem de Kooning biography by Stevens and Swan.
Brian Reilly
I didn't like it. It made him seem human. I know his work is the literary equivalent of a modern art 'super glued a bottle cap to the wall and charged $35,000.00 for it' vibe. But then why am I re-reading everything he wrote over and over. And sometimes feel like it's the only thing on my bookshelf WORTH reading?

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Nov 11, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as to-read
Shelves: auto-bio-graphy
The obligatory Steven Moore review:

"Now comes the first biography, and not just a modest remembrance but a full-length, meticulously documented study. All dead authors should be so lucky."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
Chadwick
It is a rare literary biography that actually enriches the work of its subject. Although reading an author like Barthelme--or any author, really--with biography in mind is always problematic, it offers yet another facet to consider in the compexities of his writing.
Bill
Though I was vaguely aware of his existence, I've never read anything by Barthelme. This biography examines the man's life and, more importantly, work in such a fascinating way, I feel compelled to check Barthelme out.
Adam
A book about a man who was about art. I wish I could have read this before I read his stories, actually. Or as I read his stories.
W
What was going on in the 50s while everyone was focused on the San Fran renaissance
Corey
Donald Barthelme gets his due, a respectful and engrossing biography.
Jacob
Great look at Barthelme and the state of post-war fiction.
Sarah
Sarah marked it as to-read
Aug 23, 2015
David
David marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2015
Jauncheeto
Jauncheeto marked it as to-read
Aug 06, 2015
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