Books: Come Back, Brothers Grimm

SNOW WHITE by Donald Barthelme. 180 pages. Atheneum. $4.50.

Donald Barthelme's work creates the impression that something miraculous happened to him overnight—as if, blind from birth, he could suddenly see, or, fluent only in Urdu, he abruptly grasped English entire. The result is quite an explosion, a staccato burst of verbal star shells, pinwheel phrases, cherry bombs of Joycean puns and wordplays. Such a book is Snow White, an amusingly refurbished fairy-tale novel of the absurd—as episodic and pointless as a slow-turning kaleidoscope, yet just as strangely affecting.

Snow White, "a tall dark beauty containing a great many beauty spots," lives in an...

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