Guilty Pleasures

The Book of the Week is “Guilty Pleasures” by Donald Barthelme, published in 1974; publisher – Farrar Straus and Giroux.  This is a collection of humorous essays.

In one essay, the author presents a whimsical scenario in which Amanda encounters her friend Hector playing all manner of board games simultaneously. He says, “…On the floor.  It was my move.  When I play alone, it is always my move.  That is reasonable.”  He tells Amanda that everyone is playing these games, including businessmen, military men and scientists. Amanda says she is tired of playing games.

Hector renews her enthusiasm by musing on various hypothetical games such as Contretemps, the Game of Social Embarrassment, and Hubris. He engages her in the verbal Game of Deathbed Utterances. She thinks the games are “marvelous… because they are so meaningless and boring, and trivial. These qualities, once regarded as less than desirable, are now everywhere enthroned as the key elements in our psychological lives, as reflected in the art of the period… ”

Then comes the title of this essay, “Games Are the Enemies of Beauty, Truth, and Sleep, Amanda Said.” Hector describes one last game, that of Ennui.  It requires “… No rules, no boards, no equipment… the absence of games… the modern world at its most vulnerable.”

69 thoughts on “Guilty Pleasures”

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