Short story: “Views of My Father Weeping”

by look i have opinions

“Views of My Father Weeping,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker on December 6th, 1969 (subscribers can read here); readable online via public library membership here; collected in Sixty Stories

About eleven pages in this copy of Sixty Stories, which makes it about 4,019 words

I don’t really have anything original to say about this one. I just like it and want it on my blog.

I also like Michael Zeitlin’s essay on Barthelme and need to quote it.

I remember once we were out on the ranch shooting peccadillos (result of a meeting, on the plains of the West, of the collared peccary and the nine-banded armadillo). My father shot and missed. He wept. This weeping resembles that weeping.

[… C]learly, in the context of the story [the wordplay here] is a kind of diversionary tactic (“see how playful, clever, and postmodern I’m being”) transferring our attention away from the underlying parricidal theme which one may infer from the undisguised “content” of the passage, that is, the father’s humiliation. The meaning of that humiliation comes closer to “the real story,” one which is “beneath the surface” only in the sense that its thematic, ideational, and symbolic complexities are precisely what the conspicuous play on “peccadillo” attempts to divert our attention away from. […] In fact, this might be identified as a cardinal principle of [Barthelme’s] art, or at least precisely its point: the shifting of attention away from “central concerns” is a gambit, a ruse, and a deflection[….]