Short story: “The School”

by look i have opinions

“The School,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker on June 17th, 1974 (subscribers can read it here); available here on the NPR website; apparently also here; also, there’s a YouTube clip from a reading here, a full YouTube reading here, and another audio interpretation here; collected in Sixty Stories; read aloud for the February 2014 New Yorker Fiction Podcast

1,207 words; about three pages in this copy of Sixty Stories

I’ve read a few Barthelme stories but until recently I was mostly bemused. I didn’t get what he was trying to do. Then I happened to hear a clip of this one read aloud on YouTube—I think certain types of humor just work better out loud, you don’t get the full effect of the absurdity on the page. Or maybe I’m relying too much on tone of voice and audience response as cues. The words still seem alien to me.

I’ve read this several times over now. It summarizes the problem of death about as well as anything I’ve ever read or come up with.

They said, we don’t like it.

I said, that’s sound.