Photograph from “The Postmodernists Dinner” — Jill Krementz

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Photograph from “The Postmodernists Dinner,” 1983 by Jill Krementz (b. 1940)

From the University of Houston’s collection of Barthelme’s papers. The entry’s description:

Left to right: unidentified, unidentified, Donald Barthelme, John Barth, Robert Coover (turned), unidentified, Kurt Vonnegut, Walter Abish (with patch), William Gaddis (squatting), unidentified, William Gass, unidentified, unidentified. In 1983, Barthelme arranged a “Postmodernists Dinner” for the group of writers who were often lumped together under the “postmodernist” label. The reclusive Thomas Pynchon declined the invitation.

It would be swell if anyone could identify the women in the photograph.

In his 2009 Barthelme biography  Hiding Man, Tracy Daugherty offers the following recollection of the “Postmodernist Dinner” from novelist Walter Abish:

Around this time — in the spring of 1983 — “Donald had this idea to make a dinner in SoHo,” says Water Abish. “A major dinner for a group of writers, and he planned it very, very carefully. It was a strange event. Amusing and intriguing. He invited…well, that was the thing of it. The list. I was astounded that he consulted me but he called and said, ‘Should we invite so-and-so?’ Naturally, I did the only decent thing and said ‘Absolutely’ to everyone he mentioned. I pushed for Gaddis. Gass was there, and Coover and Hawkes, Vonnegut and his wife, Jill Krementz, who took photographs, I think. Don’s agent, Lynn Nesbit, was there. She was always very friendly. Susan Sontag was the only woman writer invited.

Daugherty continues:

Pynchon couldn’t make it. He wrote Don to apologize. He said he was ‘between coasts, Arkansas or Lubbock or someplace like ‘at.”

Abish recollects that the meal was at a very expensive restaurant, prefix, and the writers had to pay their own way. There were about 21 attendees, and Barthelme was “Very, very dour.”

Here is Pynchon’s letter declining the invite (via Jessamyn West, both on Twitter and her wonderful Donald Barthelme appreciation page):

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I had never seen the photograph until today when Ethelmer shared it with me on Twitter. Thanks!

Sunlight on Water — Harry Callahan

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Sunlight on Water, 1943 by Harry Callahan (1912–1999)

Untitled (Pool) — William Eggleston

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Untitled from The Democratic Forest, 1983-1986 by William Eggleston (b. 1939)

 

Invisible Man Retreat — Gordon Parks

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Invisible Man Retreat, 1952 by Gordon Parks (1912-2006)

Untitled (Mask) — William Eggleston

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Untitled (from Los Alamos), 1966-74 by William Eggleston (b. 1939)

Deer Skull (Georgia O’Keeffe) — Todd Webb

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Deer Skull (Georgia O’Keeffe), 1961 by Todd Webb (1905-2000)

Untitled — Larry Clark

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Untitled (Man in Chair Aiming Gun, American Flag), 1963–71, printed 1980 by Larry Clark (b. 1943)

Nan Wood Graham — Joan Liffring-Zug Bourre

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Nan Wood Graham, 1975 by Joan Liffring-Zug Bourre (b. 1929)

Untitled (Lights) — William Eggleston

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Untitled, c. 1971-1973 by William Eggleston (b. 1939)

Untitled (Poster in a Hallway) — William Eggleston

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Untitled (Poster in a Hallway), 1970 by William Eggleston (b. 1939)

Untitled (Glory) — William Eggleston

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Untitled, 2012 by William Eggleston (b. 1938)

Untitled — William Eggleston

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Untitled (from The Democratic Forest) by William Eggleston (b. 1938)

Winston — William Eggleston

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Winston, c. 1983-86 by William Eggleston (b. 1938)

Window — Kansuke Yamamoto

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Window, 1941 by Kansuke Yamamoto (1930-86)

Self-Portrait (as “New Woman”) — Frances Benjamin Johnston

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Self-Portrait (as “New Woman”), 1896 by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952)

Feathery Light — György Kepes

Feathery Light c. 1939-40 by Gy?rgy Kepes 1906-2001

Untitled — Berenice Abbott

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