Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, August 13, 2021

.”The Temptation of St. Anthony” A Short Story By Donald Barthelme. First published in The New Yorker, May 26, 1972.

 .”The Temptation of St. Anthony” A Short Story By Donald Barthelme. First published  in The New Yorker,  May 26, 1972.

Today’s story was published in his 1972 collection and in The 2021 Collected Stories published by The Library of America

Donald Barthelme

Born April 7, 1931 - Philadelphia,Pennsylvania,USA

Died July 23,1989 - Houston, Texas, USA

“Barthelme’s was a specifically urban melancholy, related to that look of immunity to joy or even surprise seen in the faces of cab drivers, bartenders, street dealers, city editors, a wearily taken vow to persist beneath the burdens of the day and the terrors of the night. Humor in these conditions leans toward the anti-transcendent — like jail humor and military and rodeo humor, it finds high amusement in failure and loss, and it celebrates survival one day, one disaster, to the next.”.  Thomas Pynchon

Short story lovers owe The Library America thanks for Publishing all 145 of his Short Stories in one volume. (1004 Pages.). They also have presented us a dilemma.  How do we approach this marvelous work, do we read it through one story at a time, starting today you should finish January 4, 2022. Do we do some Research and read only  his seemingly most admired stories?  Do we pick stories with interesting titles?  A read through at a faster pace might be a suitable pandemic lockdown project for some of us.

I decided to start my exploration with “The Temptations of Saint Anythony”.  The title intrigued me. I have seen the painting.

I have after Reading just two stories, decided to read them all.

“The Temptation of Saint Anthony” is about a friend of the narrator, not an ancient icon.  The question is what makes Anthony a saint?

“Of course some people went around saying that he “thought he was better than everybody else,” and you had to take these people aside and tell them that they had misperceived the problem, that it wasn’t a matter of simple conceit, with which we are all familiar, but rather something pure and mystical, from the realm of the extraordinary, as it were; unearthly.”

People were jealous of him.  They tried to look into his apartment when he was not around hoping to find something bad or st least ordinary about him.

He is a saint.  He goes back to the desert.  The narrator’s gift to Anthony was to treat him as near ordinary, a friend.  Others wanted “dirt on him”.  In one sequence an aristocratic beauty is sent to get a reaction.  She claims he put his hand on her leg.

It seems Anthony’s greatest temptation my just to be ordinary.

The final lines befuddled snd delighted me:

“There really was something to that. In the world of mundanity in which he found himself, he shone. It was unmistakable, even to children. —————— Of course they were going to run him out of town, by subtle pressures, after a while. There is a lot of anticlericalism around, still. We visit him, in the desert, anyhow, once or twice a month. We missed our visits last month because we were in Florida.”

I also read the lead story in the collection, “Francis Green turns 81”.  I am looking forward to 143 more.

In the interests of full disclosure The Library of America gave me digital copies of this and three other books this week.

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