Strange Horizons, 28 March 2005

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"On Our Street . . . " by Donald Barthelme

This week, Strange Horizons offers a reprint story by postmodern fiction writer, Donald Barthelme.  In "On Our Street . . . ", the reader follows the plight of a man whose street is plagued by both rats and disappearing garbage cans.  Perhaps the missing receptacles are the cause of the surplus rat traffic (requiring the denizens of the street to resort to plastic garbage bags which are notoriously un-rat resistant), or perhaps the rats are behind the vanishing trash containers.  Or maybe it’s the protag’s wife ferreting the cans away in her yellow Pontiac convertible? 

Regardless of the origins of the disturbances, "On Our Street . . . " is quirky, with periodic forays into wry humor.  I especially liked the protagonist’s Pied Piper anti-rat strategy—the purchase of a flute and an instruction book—while his neighbors engage in more lethal, although equally implausible, tactics. 

There’s a meandering, literary style to this piece, which makes for a fun, although somewhat fragmented read.  The storyline gets short shrift, taking backseat to tone and style, but it doesn’t really matter.  It’s a delightful gambol, enjoyable no matter where it goes.