Cover image for There must be some mistake : a novel
Title:
There must be some mistake : a novel
Author:
Barthelme, Frederick, 1943- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
Physical Description:
294 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
Wallace Webster lives alone in Kemah, Texas, at Forgetful Bay, a condo development where residents are passing away at an alarming rate. As he monitors events in the neighborhood, Wallace keeps in touch with his ex-wife, his grown daughter, a former coworker for whom he has much-averted eyes, and a somewhat exotic resident with whom he commences an offbeat affair that begins with his being locked in an Airstream trailer attached to the roof of her restaurant. He sifts through the curious accidents that plague his neighbors, all the while reflecting on his past and shortening future. Required to ponder his own mortality, he wonders if "settling for" something less than he aspired to is a kind of cowardice, or just good sense.
Language:
English
Subject Term:
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780316231244
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A fiftyish graphic designer forced into retirement discovers, via a parade of unlikely events, that it may still be a lovely day in the neighborhood, by "the master of the low-key epiphany." (The New Yorker)

Wallace Webster lives alone in Kemah, Texas at Forgetful Bay, a condo development where residents are passing away at an alarming rate. As he monitors events in the neighborhood, Wallace keeps in touch with his ex-wife, his grown daughter, a former coworker for whom he has much averted eyes, and a somewhat exotic resident with whom he commences an off-beat affair.

He sifts through the curious accidents that plague his neighbors, all the while reflecting on his past and shortening future. Required to reflect upon his own mortality, he wonders if "settling for" something less than he aspired to is a kind of cowardice, or just good sense.

Beneath the arresting repartee and the ever-present and often satisfying banality of our modern lives--from Google searches to real life mysteries on TV--lies Frederick Barthelme's affection for and curiosity about our human condition. THERE MUST BE SOME MISTAKE is warm and wry, beautifully written, and completely irresistible.


Author Notes

Frederick Barthelme, an American writer in the minimalist tradition, depicts in his writings loneliness, isolation, and fear of intimacy in modern life. Born in 1943 in Houston, Texas, Barthelme attended Tulane University and the University of Houston before studying at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts from 1965-66. He worked as an architectural draftsman, assistant to the director of New York City's Kornblee Gallery, and creative director for advertising firms in Houston during the 1960s and early 1970s. At the same time, his art was featured in such galleries as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Barthelme's fiction often concentrates on scenes rather than plots. They frequently include "snapshots" of popular culture, such as shopping malls and McDonald's restaurants, to illustrate the emotional shallowness of the late twentieth century. Characters who show their feelings and thoughts through actions rather than language are another aspect of Barthelme's work.

Barthelme began to write fiction in the 1960s, leading to a change in the direction of his life and art. He earned an M.A. in English from Johns Hopkins University in 1977, then became an English professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and the editor of the Mississippi Review.

Barthelme's work includes the novels Two Against One (1988), Natural Selection (1993), and Bob the Gambler (1997), the short story collections Rangoon (1970) and Chroma (1987), and the screenplays Second Marriage (1985) and Tracer (1986).

Barthelme is the brother of the well-known experimental writer Donald Barthelme (1931-1989).

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Barthelme (Waveland, 2009), the wily bard of the Gulf Coast, invites us to see life through artist Wallace Webster's acutely receptive eyes. Shocked to be pushed out of the design firm he helped create, Wallace finds himself reveling in the views from his Forgetful Bay condo and enjoying serendipitous visits with his sharp-witted, college student daughter, Morgan, and, Jilly, a considerably younger former coworker. But Forgetful Bay is under siege. Sexy and darkly enigmatic Chantal is tied up and painted blue. Someone is shot. Someone else shoots himself. Detective Jean Darling questions Wallace repeatedly, Jilly's abusive ex seduces every other woman in Wallace's life, and Chantal's tattooed performance artist daughter, Tinker, appears in a nimbus of menace. Yet Wallace, a boardwalk Buddha spellbound by the seedy beauty and high-caloric cuisine of the Texas coast, remains content to let things take their course, however dire. Propelled by staccato dialogue and a soundtrack of trashy television shows, Barthelme's devilishly funny, gorgeously atmospheric, and wryly noirish farce brilliantly poses provocative questions about artifice and reality, loyalty and love, cowardice and valor.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Barthelme, a master of minimalist suburbia-set fiction ( Waveland ), returns with a buoyantly offbeat murder tale that doubles as a meditation on everything from contemporary art to Google to mortality. The setting is Forgetful Bay, a condo development in Kemah, Tex., where 50-something Wallace Webster lives alone. His solitary existence is interrupted mainly by visits from Jilly, a younger former coworker of his, and Morgan, his college-age daughter from a failed marriage. Then, a slew of apparently accidental deaths strikes the neighborhood, along with a few other strange incidents--notably, a woman, Chantal White, being doused with Yves Klein blue paint in a guerilla-like attack. After Wallace begins an affair with Chantal, police investigators come to see him, but rather than feeling frightened, he finds their questions oddly reassuring.... Like your life imitating television. Throughout the novel, his narration provides punchy, wry commentary on the banality of pop culture, but the tone is, ultimately, infectiously optimistic. Taking inventory of his neighbors' kitschy lawn statuary, Wallace considers getting a few gnomes or a Virgin Mary of his own. I mean, why not? Where's the harm in a little blind faith, a little hope in the face of the grotesque spectacle of ordinary life in this century? Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Wallace Webster, a fiftysomething commercial artist laid off from his firm, aimlessly spends his time in his Texas condo development surfing the Internet, watching Scandinavian crime dramas, and hanging around with a bevy of women, including Chantal, a woman with a history; his college-age daughter, Morgan; and his thirtysomething former coworker Jilly. Wallace's relationship with Jilly is nonsexual and undefined, though there seems to be a potential that Wallace is unwilling or unable to pursue. A series of seemingly unconnected deaths and other bizarre events begin to rock the development as Wallace finds it increasingly difficult to juggle his relationships, especially when his ex-wife, Diane, and Jilly's ex-husband, Cal, become involved. VERDICT Barthelme is keenly attuned to the zeitgeist in a way that recalls John Updike's Rabbit Is Rich. Much of the novel consists of the characters having conversations about their backstories, and despite the string of strange events in the neighborhood, one wonders when or if the threads will coalesce into a plot. They do, however, in a way that will move readers to want to reread to pick up the clues missed the first time. The ambiguous ending adds to the fun or frustration, depending on your taste. [See Prepub Alert, 4/27/14.]-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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