"Waveland" - Frederick Barthelme - Letter to Author

“Waveland” - Frederick Barthelme - Letter to Author I was gripped by your fierce, ornery precision and also the similarities between your protagonist Vaughn and myself re: age, education, divorce.  Your description of Hurricane Katrina devastation put me right in the middle of it.  The link between the hurricane of a marriage and a real hurricane is strong thematic adhesive.  I was impressed by Vaughn’s diplomacy during the middle of the night visit by his girlfriend’s violent ex-lover.  Most people would have simply called the cops.  There is a brand of fiction that is super-realism as opposed to surrealism ie, a story rings so true it aches, it resonates.  It is commendable when an artist can demonstrate a comprehension of two hundred years of fiction and apply a concentrated focus to such immediately ordinary events thus making them extraordinary.  This is what all modernists strive to do and so few actually achieve.

Your novel is interesting on a number of levels.  Now that I have read the recent biography of your brother Donald I have a useful though narrow knowledge of your family structure.  I am an architect and studied with a few professors in the mid-seventies who were true believers in Modernism like your father.  I know how passionately indelible these men were.  They were true believers in the Eric Hoffer sense.  This Modernist army was on a religious crusade, one that was very serious and often mean.  Modernist notable Paul Rudolf was a critic at one of my final reviews at the Harvard Graduate School of Design - Mr. Rudolph was a real sour pot of milk.  These men took themselves too seriously and in many cases were not naturally gifted.  I don’t know about your father, Donald Sr.  I have not seen his work.

It is interesting to experience your writing style, with its roots in Hemingway and compare it to Donald’s with his roots in Kafka, Kierkegaard, Beckett and Joyce.  Donald is a CitraModernist ie Postmodernist: work with roots in Cubism, ambiguity, multiple station points, etc  You are an UltraModernist: Apollonian, orthographic, stripped-down, “ornament is a crime.”  You have an insurmountable task in Bloomian terms of having to swerve from both a Modernist (father) and a Postmodernist (older brother)  simultaneously, an inconceivable task.  You lean away from your older brother and toward your father into a powerful place as an artist.  Thank you for an excellent reading experience.