Painted Desert

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Penguin Publishing Group, 1997 - Fiction - 256 pages
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Junior college professor Del Tribute and his cyber-muckraker friend Jen catch some old news footage of the L.A. riots, some of that vivid close-up slow motion shaky-cam stuff with the fires blazing and people getting trashed, and Jen, in particular, is incensed by the barbarity of the scene. At her insistence she and Del, her father, Mike, and her friend Penny decide to step out of the shadows and head to ground zero - Los Angeles - to do something, anything, about this particular horror. Jen sets up a scourge of e-mail spamming and internet newsgroup posts about the atrocities of the riots, but then one night in Dallas she gets a strange message back from a guy in Las Vegas named Durrell Dobson. He's sympathetic about the riots, but his messages are filled with bizarre personal sex histories, terrorism threats, an evangelical froth of retribution. His urgent messages rip veils off his schemes, name victims, reveal strategies, and Jen feels oddly responsible for his fervor. How Jen and Del and the others resolve their conflicted interests, and the shocking acts they may have encouraged, provides the conclusion to this novel of character, culture, and the media.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A zeitgeisty novelist and storywriter hitchhikes on the info highway, only to endorse a decidedly low-tech, retro view of hope and redemption. Barthelme's post-midlife-crisis narrative resurrects ... Read full review

Painted desert: a novel

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In this sequel to The Brothers (LJ 8/93), Barthelme revisits Del and Jen, a wisecracking 1990s couple living in Biloxi, Mississippi. Del, divorced and pushing 50, is starting life over with Jen, a 27 ... Read full review


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About the author (1997)

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).

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