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When I was an undergrad, The Dead Father is the only postmodernist work I really understood and loved, and it helped me laugh at traditions of all kinds. I teach this novel in my classes now, and the students think it's like nothing they've seen before (if they can get past the antinomial cussing, sex, and "nudity" all of which are absurdly rendered). Yet there are heart wrenching themes about the problems fathers and sons face as they struggle to communicate or even just coexist. Barthelme continues to make me laugh and think each time I read it or any of his works. Still a great read, and the audio narrator adds an extra layer of absurdity and tenderness to the piece.
If what you enjoy is a straightforward narrative told in straightforward prose, turn around now. Barthelme is unapologetically post-modernist in approach and outlook, and in the case of "The Dead Father," introduces a healthy dose of surrealism as well. The Dead Father is an enormous figure being dragged towards some little-explained destination. He's dead. But he's not. He is a symbolic figure, at times even a mythic figure--he creates a new god just by sticking one eye in a river.
Much of the book is snatches of dialogue, sometimes in clear context, sometimes nearly incoherent. Which is actually why it lends itself to the audiobook format, at least in the hands of a reader prepared to piece out which remark belongs to which character. Dennis Holland does a superb job of interpreting a very challenging text, and the listener owes him for his work in helping us through the work. The reading reminded very much of Nick Sullivan's outstanding reading of William Gaddis' "J.R.," and if you appreciate Gaddis' humor, you are well prepared to enjoy Barthelme's. There are moments of such wonderful wordplay and verbal juxtapositions that I burst out laughing.
While this isn't one of my top 10 audiobooks, it's one I'm very satisfied to have purchased and listened to.