Donald Barthelme? Fannie Hurst? Gore Vidal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A wide variety of sayings have employed the following template:
You may not be interested in X, but X is interested in you.
Different terms have been substituted for X including: war, politics, dialectic, and strategy. In addition, variant templates have occurred:
We may not be interested in X, but X is interested in us.
I am interested in a version used by the postmodern storyteller Donald Barthelme with the word “absurdity”. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: In 1963 Donald Barthelme published the short story “A Shower of Gold” in “The New Yorker”. The character Mr. Peterson applied to appear on a television show called “Who Am I?”, and he was interviewed by Miss Arbor. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
“What I want to know now, Mr. Peterson, is this: are you interested in absurdity?”
“Miss Arbor,” he said, “to tell you the truth, I don’t know. I’m not sure I believe in it.”
“Oh, Mr. Peterson!” Miss Arbor said, shocked. “Don’t say that! You’ll be …”
“Punished?” Peterson suggested.
“You may not be interested in absurdity,” she said firmly, “but absurdity is interested in you.”
As the story progressed Peterson changed his viewpoint: 2
I was wrong, Peterson thought, the world is absurd. The absurdity is punishing me for not believing in it. I affirm the absurdity. On the other hand, absurdity is itself absurd.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1963 November 12, The New Yorker, A Shower of Gold by Donald Barthelme, Start Page 33, Quote Page 33, Column 2, The New Yorker Magazine Inc., New York. (Scans at newyorker.com; accessed July 28, 2021) ↩
- 1963 November 12, The New Yorker, A Shower of Gold by Donald Barthelme, Start Page 33, Quote Page 37, Column 1, The New Yorker Magazine Inc., New York. (Online New Yorker archive at newyorker.com; accessed July 28, 2021) ↩