cover image Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme

Tracy Daugherty, . . St. Martin's, $29.95 (581pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37868-4

This sprawling first biography of the writer Donald Barthelme (1931–1989) complements an exemplary account of the man and his milieu with a history of 20th-century architecture, film, philosophy, visual art and political activism—not to mention a stunning exegesis of Barthelme's work and a surfeit of vignettes from New York literary life in the 1960s and '70s. Daugherty, a professor of English and creative writing at Oregon State and former student of Barthelme, renders the writer of The Dead Father in all his complexity: the experimental iconoclast, the “establishment figure” without a university degree who published more than 100 stories in the New Yorker , the citizen-activist, admitted alcoholic, the devoted if distant father and the “prankster on the page.” While Daugherty firmly takes Barthelme's side in his four troubled marriages, he assesses the writer's legacy, his champions and detractors (e.g., Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner and the “hundreds” of readers who canceled their New Yorker subscriptions in 1968 to protest the publication of his catty Snow White ). Like Barthelme's best stories, this unapologetically literary and ambitious book is cultural and artistic bricolage at its finest. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Feb.)