There was a time when I fought against an impatience with reading, concealing, with partisanship, the fissures in my education. I confused difficulty with duplicity, and that which didn’t come easily, I often scorned. Then, in my last year of college in Gainesville, Florida, I was given secondhand a list of eighty-one books, the recommendations of Donald Barthelme to his students. Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time, was to attack the books “in no particular order, just read them,” which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do.
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