I’ve been impractical today, spending time tooling with my new blog and writing in my novel. In a faint gesture at productivity I reread Donald Barthelme’s The Indian Uprising, a story that I so scathingly reviewed in 2009.
Wiser now, more mellow and humble, I allow that it is well written if not to my taste. Its very complexity obscures what Barthelme is attempting to elucidate, and it is that sense of meaning hidden behind curtains of errata and thinly connected psychologies that lures one on.
There is nothing simple here. The invading Comanches are the Parisian students rebelling in the 60’s. The war is a cultural one. Sylvania or Sylvia dances through the story, appearing as both an opponent, a lover, a mystery and a torment. There is a ragingly awful psychologist who clearly does nothing to help the narrator, and endless allusions to attitudes and mentalities that are complex and small enough to fit into matchboxes.
See what I did there, with that last sentence? That’s the kind of stuff Barthelme does the whole time. After awhile you stop trying to puzzle it all out, and just ride along as if borne on a wave of stream of consciousness, metaphors, enigmas and gibberish.
Guess I still don’t like it much. It’s more of an interpretive dance than a short story. But just as you have to admire the effort that goes into building a miniature bridge out of matchsticks, so do you have to admire Barthelme’s effort in constructing something so complex and abstruse.