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Are we frightened of the fantastic literary text Is there something inherently threatening about a work like Barthelmes Me and Miss Mandible something obtrusive which as we read forces us away from the text A pronounced feeling of uneasiness seems to mark our reception of Barthelme a range of anxiety expressed mainly in our responses to the storys narrator Questions concerning his reliability and authenticity and why Barthelme chooses to construct him in the manner he does become paramount serving as pivotal gauges from which we read and critique his character However in establishing such gauges we hinder our entrance into the fantastic reducing the elements of Barthelmes fiction to a mere realist side effect by-products of a normative writing model How Me and Miss Mandible differs in its narrative structure and character development from works by OConnor Chopin and Gordimer is perhaps the more pertinent issue when we discuss our responses to the story and its narrator Reading Barthelme requires new strategies and fresh gauges a New Critical approach like the one used with OConnors Julian can only lead to more anxiety and a dwarfed understanding of the texts indeterminant nature and its capacity to destabilize and resituate not only the readers but its own functioning cultural contextBefore examining Barthelmes destabilizingstabilizing dynamic we must first acquaint ourselves with those stylistic features and textual devices he uses which set him apart from realist or naturalist writers Barthelme as noted by Lance Olson in his article Slumgullions or Some Notes toward Trying to Introduce Donald Barthelme recognizes the inability of traditional beliefs and structures to make sense of contemporary experience29 The edicts of mimetic or realist writing do not work for Barthelme From Matei Calinescus Modernism and Ideology we see realist writing defined as exhibiting an identifiable social perspective a critical detachment from subject matter and an attention to conveying concrete typicality47 Conventional modes of story telling are subverted in Bathelmes case abused to reveal the
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