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Sixty Stories [Hardcover]

Donald Barthelme
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 3 1989

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 work, the sixty stories collected in this volume are triumphs of language and perception, at once unsettling and irresistible.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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This excellent collection of Donald Barthelme's literary output during the 1960s and 1970s covers the period when the writer came to prominence--producing the stories, satires, parodies, and other formal experiments that altered fiction as we know it--and wrote many of the most beautiful sentences in the English language. Due to the unfortunate discontinuance of many of Barthelme's titles, 60 Stories now stands as one of the broadest overviews of his work, containing selections from eight previously published books, as well as a number of other short works that had been otherwise uncollected. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Barthelme can focus our feeling into a bright point that can raise a blister. These 60 stories show him inventing at a fever pitch." —The Washington Post

"Donald Barthelme may have influenced the short story in his time as much as Hemingway and O' Hara did in theirs." —The New York Times

"The delight he offers to readers is beyond question, his originality is unmatched." —Los Angeles Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "And I saw the figure 5 writ in gold" Oct. 17 2000
This is my favorite book to date. The way Barthelme can be both so articulate and non-sensical at the same time shows him to be a master of the human psyche. He notices subtleties that most people encounter but seldom regard as anything relevant, the result evokes a response that leaves one saying to his/herself "why have I not thought of such matters," or "that's so absurd-- the man is a genius". Ever since reading "Critique de la Vie Quotidienne" in a copy of Sadness (picked up off hand at a used book store) I knew that Barthelme was something special. Shame on the people that criticize him for not including the "traditional elements" of fiction!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Donald Barthelme - 60 Stories May 16 2000
In his review of "American Beauty," the New Yorker movie critic David Denby writes, "I can think of no other American movie that sets us tensions with smarty pants social satire and resolves them with a burst of metaphysics." The same can be said for many of the stories in this collection. The first three fourth's of "The School," for example, is narrated with the deadpan cool that predominated in popular eighties minimalism. It is textbook black humor. But "The School" ends with a poetic riff on cultural relativism, exposing everything that came before in the story, and giving us a glimpse of the narrator's frailties. And then with the final two lines, Barthelme throws in an oddball joke, making the story even more uncertain. It's like on The Simpsons, when you get their craziest, surreal joke right before a commercial break. A Barthelme story simultaneously invites interpretation and outguesses the reader.
Another great thing about both Barthelme's stories and "American Beauty" is that when a narrative stradles that border between reality and parody, the characters get away with making the most straightforward thematic statements. In "The Seargent," a story about a middle aged man who somehow finds himself stuck in the army again, the narrator keeps repeating, "This is all a mistake. I'm not supposed to be here," etc. "Of course I deserve this." If the protagonist of a realistic, mid-life crisis story made these statements it would be interpreted as too obvious. Suspension of disbelief might be violated. When the situation is absurd, however, the characters can be beautifully direct.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Barthelme is one of a kind. May 11 2000
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BETTER THAN A WET LUNCH Jan. 30 2000
By A Customer
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Barthelme is a Master Jan. 23 1998
By Abe
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Balloon Man
In one of the most typical, poignant, funny, and resounding stories in this collection, Barthelme introduces us to the Balloon Man. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by jonathan crossley
2.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor Has No Clothes On
There has been a resurgence of interest in Barthelme's work so I thought I'd go back and re-read him. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2001 by Howard Paul Burgess
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
A writer who knows his audience and can tap into the contemporary mind with ease, this is a collection that stands out in the latter half of the 20th century. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2000 by Account Killer
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect collection of wonderfully absurd literature
Donald Barthelme was truly a master of the short story. I had to read this book for a project in AP english, and I was very impressed. Read more
Published on March 16 2000 by Casey Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and Confounding
This collection is permanently at my bedside for when I can't get to sleep. Not that it puts me to sleep; it usually forces me to stay up another 2 hours while I re-read yet again... Read more
Published on Nov. 17 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is an incredible collection of short stories
This collection of short stories contains some of the most original and funny work ever published. This father of post modernism, Barthelme, has a mind like no other. Read more
Published on Dec 13 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny as he wants to be
Barthelme did it all in a very small space. He made you laugh and cry. He pondered deeply: Kierkegard, Schlegel, Sartre. He twisted the most mundane and concocted the most absurd. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 1998 by hotrod@sirius.com
3.0 out of 5 stars Hyperbolically intransigent ancient wisdom.
Donald Barthelme picked up on the love of words for words' sake. Words never in isolation, but rather, immeshed in complex and new ways of knowing.
Published on July 22 1998
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