Barthelme, asked by a student how to become a better writer, suggests reading the entire history of philosophy ‘from the Presocratics up through last semester’. The student worriedly replies that Barth has already advised his class to read all of literature, ‘from Gilgamesh up through last semester’.

‘That too,’ Barthelme agrees, and adds: ‘You’re probably wasting your time on eating and sleeping. Cease that, and read all of philosophy and all of literature. Also art. Plus politics and a few other things. The history of everything.’

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