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Paperback Sixty Stories Book

ISBN: 0142437395

ISBN13: 9780142437391

Sixty Stories

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Book Overview

With these audacious and murderously witty stories, Donald Barthelme threw the preoccupations of our time into the literary equivalent of a Cuisinart and served up a gorgeous salad of American culture, high and low. Here are the urban upheavals reimagined as frontier myth; travelogues through countries that might have been created by Kafka; cryptic dialogues that bore down to the bedrock of our longings, dreams, and angsts. Like all of Barthelme's...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Brilliant but not for Everyone

Judgments about Barthelme remind me of how subjective criticism of literature is. Is he a genius or a fraud? One thing is for certain: if you do not have a taste for the absurd you are probably not going to like Barthelme. His stories are filled with absurdist/surrealist elements. But for me, what separates him from other "experimental" writers is his ability to elicit emotion from the reader. For example, when I first read the ending of "The Balloon", I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. And I couldn't say exactly why. Same with "The School." But there is something about his writing that works on the precognitive level. Unlike some reviewers, I don't find anything chilly or removed about his writing. There seems to be a genuine sympathy for his characters, even when placed in the most ludicrous of circumstances. So I line up on the genius side. And by the way, he's flat out the funniest writer I know of. 60 Stories is a good place to start if you're interested but if you like it, also check out 40 Stories, which features simpler writing.

Difficult but rewarding

After I'd read about half of these stories, and in many cases, read them again, I suddenly realized what the trick was to enjoying them- losing my expectations. For Barthelme, the form is as important, if not more important, than the message, and each of these stories is an experiment in form and meaning (and not always both at the same time). Once I stopped looking for deeper meaning, and trying to figure out what he was trying to say, I realized that, often times, he's not saying anything, he's merely experimenting with language. "Aria", for example, or "Glass Mountain", are absurd for the sake of being absurd, while "A City of Churches" is more obviously social commentary. "The School" is darkly funny, and "Me And Miss Mandible" is a well-crafted, entertaining short story, full of absurdity and humanity, and one of the best in the book. Also, you can't help but notice the huge influence that Barthelme's work has had on many writers living today, especially those who enjoy playing with language and stretching the bounds of fiction (read ANY of Steve Martin's short stories and you'll see what I mean).

Barthelme is one of a kind.

Donald Barthelme is probably the inimitable writer of the twentieth century and this collection is the best way to introduce yourself to his works. Included are selections from eight volumes he published between the years of 1964 and 1979 as well as a number of previously uncollected stories. What stikes one most about this collection is the sustained brilliance over the course of all 60 inclusions. While not every story is a classic and not every story hits the bullseye one has to admire the ambition packed and effort with which each is attempted, especially when one considers that few exist in a framework of more than six or seven pages. The stories in this collection that do work, and they are in the far majority, are startling in their ability to catch the reader off guard and deliver their short, compact punch. "Game", "A City of Churches" and "The School" are among these highlights, beautiful in their ability to transmit their message with such clarity and intensity, yet with such ease, virtuosity and good humor.All that said, I feel I should qualify this review by saying that Barthelme is rarely easy reading. His narratives are so remarkably compact and so tightly wound that reading one straight through is something quite akin to venturing through an underwater cave, not coming up for air until the very end. It can be a difficuly experience, requiring intense concentration but the payoff is very worth the effort.


This book will change your approach to short fiction. It will also challenge your ideas about the limits of human creativity, eviscerating all of that ridiculous 10%-of-your-brain nonsense. You are powerless to these changes, fella - just try to relax. Donald Barthelme has been unfairly neglected by the publishing industry; fortunately, 60 Stories is a fantastic representation of his talents (which are just innumerable, dammit). D.B. is currently in holy respite on the Isle of Avalon; either that, or he's drinking at a bar in Newark, wearing a funny disguise. Regardless of the details, he's aloof. One day he'll return to save his country, and if you haven't read this book, he's going to give you the business.

Barthelme is a Master

Barthelme's stories are short and spectacular. He is probably the postmodernist (Man, I hate that word, but what else can you call it?) writer with the most understanding of the language. Some passages are beautiful, some disturbing, some confusing. I don't think there's a story in this volume that doesn't deserve to be read twice, and some ("The Indian Uprising","The Emerald","Daumier") should be read far more frequently. If you have any interest in absurd fiction, then Barthelme is the man for you, and ths volume gives a broad selection of his best work.
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