Holy cow, I love this ‘un! I saw in Ben Fountain’s preface that the author discovered Donald Barthelme during a stint in a Texas prison (marijuana, meh.). Well, I discovered DB while dumpster diving, broke and living in an attic in Tallahassee, so dingdingding I checked it out! The title story reads like a great conspiracy zine from the 70s, about JFK’s assassination (including Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald) all being one elaborate work of performance art created by Ruby to introduce internationally acclaimed avant-garde art to stingy Dallas. But that’s just a preview for the main attraction. The bulk of the book is around 20 short stories that all revolve, in some way, around a beer bar (you want liquor, you gotta bring it yourself). The bar is a safe-ish haven in the belly of the beast (1960s Dallas) that lives in the mouth of the king of beasts (anytime Texas). Every style of story lives inside this collection. I’d say it’s equal parts Donald Barthelme, Terry Allen and W.G. Sebald. It comes out in November and I will be talking this one up a ship ton! That’s right: tonnage is different on ships. A ship ton different!
Jack Ruby and the Origins of the Avant-Garde in Dallas by Robert Trammell, (List Price: $16.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646050499, December 2021)
Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia