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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Sixty Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 28 September 2017
This is a compilation of the stories in some collections, that were not included in the Forty Stories. An excellent example of the authors mild irony and ability to write things that loses its tracks or where things get out of proportion, sometimes even the narrator does not see what is going on. It is pure joy reading, but also a serious reminder of how language could replace thought.
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Lets admit it at the outset, not everyone is going to love this or even want to read this book. Barthelme was greatly influenced by Samuel Beckett, and possibly if you don't like his work you won't like these stories, also some people just seem to have an aversion to short stories. Where the likes of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce took literature Barthelme carried on adding a more ironical touch and originality, making him a true great post-modernist.

Turning the short story on its head and being very inventive with language all the stories collected here offer something different. Very creative, with lots of irony and black humour you may be surprised at how many times you find yourself laughing out loud. Apart from his style of writing and wonderful wordplay, Barthelme shows that the short story can be darkly entertaining, rather like that great, Saki.

This book is well worth a read, but I suspect it will always be something that people who like a more erudite use of language will want to peruse and enjoy, rather than the vast majority of readers.
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on 16 November 2014
These are simple, honest stories full of raw, emotional — actually, I jest. They’re the exact opposite of that. They’re elliptical, allusive, fragmentary and playful. They emit occasional flashes of anger and melancholy, but everything is refracted through a prism of artifice and dry wit.

Some of them I couldn’t make sense of at all. Most of the others appear to be about the art of writing short stories. They might condescend to allude to other things too, but Barthelme is always more interested in the medium than the message. Conventions are parodied and broken; plots are short-circuited or bypassed; there a violent non-sequiturs and frequent intrusions of the surreal into domestic vignettes. At worst, these stories are literature as crossword puzzle. At best, they’re genuinely surprising and quite funny.
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How does my youthful love shape up before my aged self?

'When you're angry with the President, what you experience is self-as-angry-with-the-President.' While sixty's a bit like an over-large box of choccies, these do have a wonderful nostalgic feel, a bit like Mad Men - though Don doesn't go back QUITE that far. (Actually, he does. Eddie, Debbie and Liz? See next review but one.) The avant garde hasn't been so much fun since, bar the occasional wacko poet (Paul Violi?). These days this absurdist tragi-comic territory is more likely to be explored on screen or within certain comic strips

Rather alarming to find cemetery misspelt on page 38 - I mean, are these texts classic or aren't they? - and I'm venturing outside my comfort zone here, but Weiss, the typeface used by Putnam (I can't speak for the Secker or more recent editions) has a really annoying semicolon. Seriously - c'mon, would I lie to you? The heavy period sexism, even if supposedly ironic, is rather hard to take (the New York School poets, those who weren't gay, tended to display the same failing, but it felt somehow more tolerable, liberating even, in verse*) while the dustjacket's beyond feeble (they obviously didn't know what to make of him in 1981 when his 'alternative' star had waned and before his canonical status had firmed up) and the author photograph spookily ressembles a soon-to-be-dead Georges Perec!

Actually (page 38) the full stop's way too small as well - why bother? - and another four-hundred-plus pages to go, too

* Question: do women read the New York School poets? Who tend, broadly, to be either (a) gay, if not 'out', or (b) 'male chauvinists', as they were once quaintly termed. For males this school, headed (still) by Ashbery, has defined the past fifty years. That's not to say the New Yorkers weren't also awfully uxorious; maybe they were just being honest? But not, like Don, flippant - except when they were. I guess poetry's just the higher art form (sigh)
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on 27 July 2006
What is wrong with us? Why does this book languish unloved on Amazon, with no customer reviews? Why are we so suspicious of short stories?

I haven't got time right now to write the considered and persuasive review that Barthelme's books deserve, but nor can i pass on by without at least saying hey! Buy this book! and the companion volume, '40 Stories'. Barthelme was a genius. There is more intelligence, humanity, wit, linguistic dexterity, mischief, invention, bravura, and downright thumping good reading in any single one of these stories than in the entire careers of many writers.
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on 26 October 2008
Donald Barthelme was of course actually a consortium of 13 American academics. The books were produced using postal correspondence, and would in all honesty be rather 'dry and dusty' (full of rare words, tergiversatious narratives, and a cussed determination to make each next sentence unpredictable) - if you didn't know about the curiously named Bela Bluebeard. She was the Appalachian woman who first discovered the 'con' being perpetrated on the reading public (because, it is said, she slept with one of the academics' wives). Bela audaciously pretended to be both a man, AND the 'real' Barthelme - and then, when the embarrassed academics came clean, not only refused to concede that they were telling the truth, but went on to write a novel ('Snow White') that was every bit the equal of the academics' work. Even more interesting than all of this is that while none of the above is remotely true - it still might be. Barthelme's stories use urban American furniture, but they are essentially a 'Literary Achievement'. They invite comparison with pantheon-class writers. He can be witty in a phrase, but repetitiously tedious (or, as he might say, 'battologically boring') in a page. The result is impressively clever but substantially unmemorable. It's like that Tibetan saying used by the Dali Lama (no, really!) : 'The man of great intelligence is like a burning field: the fire passes quickly away'. Eclectic, indulgent, absurdist and decidedly not plot driven: reading a book of 60 such short stories is akin to eating a bowl of peas with a set of tweezers - you think you are NEVER going to reach the end. Barthelme himself once said, "Fragments are the only forms I..." but, thenagain, it would be contradicting him to complete the whole quote.
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on 28 December 2014
Without doubt the most surreal collection of stories I have ever read. So full marks to Mr Barthelme for creating something utterly unique. Possibly totally meaningless too, although it was hard to tell. Don't read more than one a week otherwise it all becomes rather repetitive.
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on 28 June 2015
Hilarious, witty, trippy, and subversive; Barthelme's Sixty Stories is an incredibly fun read, and one that will render you a chuckling, dribbling moron.
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on 19 December 2016
Love many/most modern writers of substance but ...
Donald Barthelme leaves me cold. Self indulgent whimsy is the polite way of describing his work.
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on 5 December 2014
Arrived promptly, as described...looks brand new even
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