Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme (1931-1989) - American author of some of the most charming, curious, quizzical, probing short stories every written.
Alienation, absurdity and the reality of death, themes central to the existential imagination, receive powerful expression in two unforgettable French classics: Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Wall and Albert Camus’ The Stranger. Readers have come to expect such serious, penetrating works are part of the rich European literary tradition.
But, we may ask, how will these stark twentieth century existential themes translate when exported to America, the land of Daffy Duck, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Gomer Pyle? Turns out, we are provided a clear answer with Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby, the title story in this Donald Barthelme collection about a young man sentenced to death, American-style.
The narrator tells us in so many words and with home-spun informality how it all started back when some of his group began threatening Colby due to the way he kept carrying on. But, dang, Colby didn’t stop; now he really did it – he went too far. So the group decided to hang him. Colby complained that, although, sure, he went too far, he didn’t deserve to be hanged, since everybody goes too far now and again. They all ignored Colby’s bellyaching and asked what music he would like played the day of his hanging. Colby said he’d take his own sweet time and think it over. Oh, no - they had to know fast since the conductor, Howard, had to find some musicians so he could start rehearsals. Thus begins this short tale of existential absurdity with a decidedly down-home, rustic American twist, including a hefty dose of Barthelme signature humor.
In honor of the years Donald Barthelme spent living and teaching in the state of Texas, let’s give our narrator a good ol’ boy Texas name: Buck. Well, Buck goes on to inform us how Colby initially picked out his music, Ives’s Fourth Symphony, but Howard rejected Colby’s choice, claiming such music would require a huge orchestra and chorus as well as weeks of rehearsals, all of which was nothing but a delay tactic.
Another serious issue, so Buck tells us, was the printed invitations: “What if one of them fell into the hands of the authorities? Hanging Colby was doubtless against the law, and if the authorities learned in advance what the plan was they would very likely come in and try to mess everything up.” Such a revealer of the Americans mindset, particularly in the Wild West and in states like Texas: people want to do what they want to do and detest even the thought of possible government interference. To avoid having any of those pesky government agencies sticking a meddling nose into their business, Buck and his gang come up with a perfect solution: “We decided to refer to the event as “An Event Involving Mr. Colby Williams.” A handsome script was selected from a catalogue and we picked a cream-colored paper.”
Next on the agenda is the question of liquor. Actually, since this is rural America or Texas or the Wild West, the question isn’t if liquor will be served but what liquor will be served. Colby thought drinks would be nice but he was concerned about the expense, to which Buck and the gang pipe up to let Colby know they are all his dear friends and he shouldn’t worry his head about the expense. Ah, friendship! And then Colby asks if he can have a drink. The answer from his dear friends is instant and unanimous -- they all exclaim: “Certainly!” Ah, dear friendship, Texas-style!
Buck and his group are down to the nitty-gritty details, things like the gibbet and its construction, including the mechanics of the gibbet’s trap door, what type of wood, how will the gibbet look out in the countryside? Now these American buckaroos can really get their emotional juices flowing since they are talking mechanical engineering rather than bothering themselves about what it means to end the life of a fellow human.
Reflecting on the tradition of the Wild West and the fact that they will be hanging Colby in the balmy month of June, Buck suggests a nice looking tree, say an oak, rather than a gibbet. The gang put the choice of gibbet or tree to Colby; Colby, in turn, asks if they arent being a little Draconian! Draconian - such a big word, Colby – if for no other reason than using such a big word among your dear friends, you deserve to be dancing on the end of a rope!
The black humor of this flash fiction turns even blacker. Read the story itself, either in this collection, in the Penguin edition of Donald Barthelme’s Forty Stories or via this link:
We Love Our Friends - Sam & Colby but everytime they say a compliment The Second Verse plays
Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby
Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book. Readers have come to expect such serious, penetrating works are part of the rich European literary tradition. But, we may ask, how will these stark twentieth century existential themes translate when exported to America, the land of Daffy Duck, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Gomer Pyle? Turns out, we are provided a clear answer with Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby , the title story in this Donald Barthelme collection about a young man sentenced to death, American-style. The narrator tells us in so many words and with home-spun informality how it all started back when some of his group began threatening Colby due to the way he kept carrying on. So the group decided to hang him.
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Post a Comment. Some "friends" have decided to execute one of their friends for "going too far"., You know how looking at a math problem similar to the one you're stuck on can help you get unstuck? Reading example essays works the same way!
Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he'd gone too far, so we decided to hang him. Colby argued that just because he had gone too far he did not deny that he had gone too far did not mean that he should be subjected to hanging. Going too far, he said, was something everybody did sometimes. We didn't pay much attention to this argument.