“The main difficulty with the book business” (Donald Barthelme)

The main difficulty with the book business is that a book is two kinds of objects. You have, on the one hand, a thing that a reasonable and prudent man might decide is a book. You have on the other hand an object which looks very much like a book, feels very much like a book, but is in actuality a bucket of peanut butter covered with a thin layer of chocolate sauce. These things are sold in the same way. The latter seems to sell better, for some mysterious reason, than the former. A good example of this that I ran into recently is a book called The First Time, which apparently has to do with accounts of initial sexual experiences of either eminent or reasonably well-known people. This, I would say, is a bucket of peanut butter. Actually, they missed. They should have done a book called The Last Time, which would not only be funnier but more poignant. The idea is copyrighted, by the way. Take notes.

From remarks Donald Barthelme delivered at a 1975 conference at the Library of Congress. Published in Tracy Daugherty’s book Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme.


  1. Morgan Hensley · January 10, 2014

    I have been seeing a lot of Barthelme around recently. I’d only seen his name on occasion before, and so I’m taking it as a sign that I should check him out. Where is a good starting place for him?


    • Biblioklept · January 10, 2014

      40 Stories or 60 Stories—both are self-selected collections of his short stories.


  2. randomkhaos · January 10, 2014

    Very funny.


  3. Pingback: “The main difficulty with the book business” (Donald Barthelme) | farida66

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