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With these audacious and murderously witty stories, Donald Barthelme threw the preoccupations of our time into the literary equivalent of a Cuisinart and served up a gorgeous salad of American culture, high and low. Here are the urban upheavals reimagined as frontier myth; travelogues through countries that might have been created by Kafka; cryptic dialogues that bore down to the bedrock of our longings, dreams, and angsts. Like all of Barthelme’s work, the sixty stories collected in this volume are triumphs of language and perception, at once unsettling and irresistible.
One morning in 1887, Mathilda went out into the back yard and discovered that a mysterious Chinese house had planted itself there overnight. She had wanted a fire engine, but the mysterious Chinese house was intriguing too. From inside came strange sounds: growls, howls, whispering, trumpeting.
Plucky Mathilda walks right in. She finds all sorts of peculiar things: a sulky captured pirate, a giant popcorn-popping machine, an elephant that falls downhill once a day—truly “every kind of flawless flourishy footlooseness.” Mathilda gets to see everything in every room, guided by the hithering thithering djinn, who even arranges to leave her a souvenir that is just about exactly what she wanted.
Renowned author Donald Barthelme presents Mathilda’s escapade in a witty and whacky text with collage illustrations made entirely from nineteenth-century engravings. It’s a unique, fun, and ultimately wonderful book.