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Sixty Stories

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  3,885 ratings  ·  230 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 451 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 15, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: postmodernist playmates
Recommended to s.penkevich by: The blurbs on the back of way too many books
I spent this past summer with Barthelme’s Sixty Stories never far from my side as my most recent ‘dashboard book’. The stories contained in this hilarious and bizarre collection are rarely more than 5-10pgs in length, making them a perfect companion to turn to whenever you find a few spare moments where you want to simple get-in-and-get-out while still walking away with a headful of ideas to chew on. The stories are as varied as the horizon viewed through a travelling car, often as pretty as the ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Tim is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing I ever read from the field of cognitive linguistics, which has stayed with me till the present moment, was Mark Turner's notion that "one reads Shakespeare in order to have a brain that has read Shakespeare." The original context was something about Hirsch's crap about cultural literacy and a rebuttal of the notion that we read Shakespeare simply to attain a few cultural benchmarks (blech), as if cocktail party conversation were the final arbiter of literary merit and purpose. An ...more
Sarah Smith
Sometimes I feel like a huge misfit writing fiction. I have some language-level obsession that doesn't always translate very well into "shit happening," which, let's face it, is crucial to a story. I think I always put more elbow grease into sentences and images, and particular cadences that please me. All of which is my roundabout way of praising Don Barthelme for writing stories that hit the aforementioned balls out of the park. Take heart, poets attempting to write fiction. The stories in thi ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who appreciate literature slightly askew
I was half way through the book when I realized that these stories serve as a kind of Rorschach Test, always in movement, always mind-boggling, and forever inspiring. Some of the "dialogues" can seem overly long and pedantic, but when it comes to Barthelme, can there be such terms? They seem to be much of the point. As an earlier review mentioned, these short pieces have the tendency to rip your mind to shreds, without any hope for recovery throughout. Many stories in this collection bear the ma ...more
This collection of stories came highly recommended from a reliable source, but I'm sorry to say, I could only make it through about 10%. Maybe I'm overly traditional, but Barthelme's gimmicks (improper punctuation, garish non-sequiturs, smarty-pants diction) didn't impress me much. Too clever by half. That being said, I know a number of people who would really enjoy his work (i.e. I know a number of people who are better at having fun than me.) The stories are short. Give them a try if you like ...more
Here's an odd coincidence: Carl, that's me, finishes reading The Beetle Leg by John Hawkes and then immediately picks up Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme. The first story contains a character named Carl who talks about being a fan of The Beetle Leg by John Hawkes.
MJ Nicholls
Barthelme is the short story writer for me. I loved these mad, witty, clever but not clever-clever, surreal and speculative stories. Barthelme has a style and range utterly unique to him and uses a fragmented, avant-garde approach to tell his cryptic and weirdly moving stories.

I can't pick a favourite from these. They were dazzling, one and all. Hooray for discovering new writers!
Okay, so the five stars are more a rating for what the best of Barthelme’s fiction (“City Life,” “Views of My Father Weeping,” “At the End of the Mechanical Age”) does to me than a rating for the sixty stories contained in Sixty Stories. Of course there are duds. There are sixty fucking stories.
A.J. Howard
For the past couple of years, I have kept word documents that keep track of the individual short stories or long essays I read. I say to myself I do this so I can keep track of what I read and recognize writers who've I encountered before. While this is true, the main reason I keep these lists is because I am a bit compulsive when it comes to keeping track of unnecessary things. Seriously, I have never been able to get myself to keep up with my check balance book but my music on my external hard ...more
They sit down together. The pork with red cabbage steams before them. They speak quietly about the McKinley Administration, which is being revised by revisionist historians. The story ends. It was written for several reasons. Nine of them are secrets. The tenth is that one should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever, no matter what is tattooed upon the warm tympanic page (so ends the story Rebecca, page 279).

The above passage is the rarest of examples of
This selection remains the essential one for the situational brilliance, streetwise high-mindedness, worldly moaning and groaning, revivified commonplaces, and startling perfection of phrase that -- taken all in all -- defined a late-20th-Century master. No one with an ear for the language will want to skip the discoveries Donald Barthelme made in American Eglish. No one seeking to get their minds around the ever-more-citified complications of our existence, and to find what may yet amount to th ...more
Guttersnipe Das
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
Penguin, 1982
introduction by David Gates (2003)

When I was 20 I tried to read Nabokov, and couldn’t, and knew it was my problem, not his. When I was 25 I could read Nabokov. I couldn’t read Barthelme until I was 40. (There are real benefits, it turns out, to not dying young.) Maybe it helped that I had read Beckett, Lispector, Lydia Davis in the meantime. Probably it helped even more that I had suffered serious disappointments and intermittently drank too much. I ha
Darran Mclaughlin
This guy is a genius and it is a tragedy that he is not better known or more commonly read. He is a great original and one of the best examplars of the good qualities of postmodernism. His writing is so fresh, so full of brio, wit and zip. His prose is so carefull considered at a sentence by sentence level that I can only compare him to Samuel Beckett in this respect. The stories are so unpredictable and wayward that he recalls Kafka. The intricacy, intelligence and originality recalls Borges. T ...more
I've been reading through these for the past couple weeks, picking out good ones like berries.

About a third of these are too rambling or incoherent to understand, but the rest, as a general rule, are brilliant. My favorites are the Balloon, Robert Kennedy, the Captured Woman, On Angels, Cortes and Montezuma, and The Death of Edward Lear.
Goodreads reader Michael Peck wrote it better than I could in his review; "...I realized that these stories serve as a kind of Rorschach Test, always in movement, always mind-boggling, and forever inspiring."

Michael described it perfectly. The stories are like songs where the lyrics make no sense per say but you love them anyways - a la ones from the band Neutral Milk Hotel.

As to rating, it therefore becomes hard and intensely personal. Some of the stories resonated wonderfully and left intense
Will Dean
If some things had gone differently in my life, I would have read this book more than a bit of time ago, but as with other things, no point in dwelling on paths not taken earlier. I always had this image in my mind of Barthelme as an academic writer, with the accompanying stodgy connotations, and that's not an untrue description but it misrepresents someone whose stories are such great fun to read. I've rarely laughed out loud so many times, or stopped reading to look around if any nearby on the ...more
well, i didn't finish sixty stories, but i did get about 3/4 of the way through it and it took me a while, so i feel duty-bound to document it.

one of the traits i admire most in writers is the ability to extend themselves out of veiled autobiography and write in and through the eyes of someone else. one of the traits i most disdain in writers is a tendency towards the esoteric, ignoring the critical elements of a good story. Barthelme is both of these writers. the stories with real characters a
Alicia Grega
I adore this book. I enjoyed the audio book immensely and I am now looking forward to buying a print copy of the book so I can spend some more time with the text. I love that I could just randomly listen from here to there and get something out of even the shortest sequences of sentences. There is constant surprise and that keeps your attention. The writing is so clean. There aren't a lot of extra words that don't have to be there even at the same time I'm not always sure I understand what's goi ...more
Dan Keating
My first introduction to "literary" short fiction came in high school when I read Donald Barthelme's "The School," which can be found in this collection. I didn't know exactly what to make of it then, but I knew that I enjoyed it immensely. Years (and a high school diploma and a college degree) later, I've discovered all new ways to adore the stories in this collection. Barthelme is one of those precious writers who gives insanity the feeling of sense and brilliance the feeling of deceptive simp ...more
Geoffrey Waring
Amazing book, only marked down because there are some clunkers committed in the name of daring exploration. In the worst places, the stories can enter "Tender Buttons" territory -- which apparently floats some boats out there, but not in this quarter. On the other hand, when Barthelme can wed his daring formal experimentalism with more traditional content -- character, conflict, emotion -- the results are breathtaking. Stories like The Captured Woman, The School, On The Steps of the Conservatory ...more
A City of Churches by Donald Barthelme

We could be talking about Bucharest…my home town and a place which has (too) many churches. The officials of the church, instead of spending money on new, expensive buildings, should do more and give money to the poor. Before I start grumbling about the high priests here, I must go back to this excellent story.

At the center of the story is not a priest, Jesus Christ Superstar or the like, but a young woman, with little to do with any church. True, the other
This collection is a hell of a mix of a lot of different kind of stories. The writing is good in all of them, but I definitely liked some more than others. The ones that were somewhat straightforward but politely absurd are my favorites. I just don't go as much for the ones that are highly disconnected. For me, I just don't get them very much and don't dig reading them as much. That being said, there has to be something everybody will dig in this one. And it will be well written too.
of the many beautiful moments in this book, i specifically recommend "Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning", "Kierkegaard Unfair to Schlegal", and "The Party". aside from those, there are a few tossers in here, but only in relation to the 100% kick-ass level of excellentude by which the other stories set the bar. in retrospect, i would have parceled out each story like expensive chocolates or a good scotch. barthelme delivers more power than can be appreciated if consumed in one sitting.
Ahmed Khalifa
GAH forgive my raging boner but this book is worth it. It spent the summer with me, and I rationed out stories sparingly, and only in times of great need.

First of all, the stories are short, really short. 5-10 pages each, tops. There's no one word to cover them all, but they're all surreal, zany bits of prose that imprint on you, like a sort of literary Rorschach. The Balloon is a great example of this. You can read it any one of a hundred different ways, and Barthelme's decision that conventi
Kate Savage
Barthelme ends a story like this: "The story ends. It was written for several reasons. Nine of them are secrets. The tenth is that one should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever".

Which is good, but not as good as his ending for the long short story "A Manual for Sons" (a blissful romp through repressed Oedipal violence):

"You must become your father, but a paler, weaker version of him. The enormities go with the job, but close study will allow you to per
Charlie N
With the exception of a couple of stories, particularly "Game," I found this collection of stories to be affected, precious, and irritatingly obscure (like the New Yorker magazine in which they so often appeared). Perhaps he meant to write gibberish. If so, what a strange way to burn heartbeats before you die. If not, it's a discourtesy to the reader to hide behind such a strange veil. Maybe the way to approach his work is to think of it as a messy collection of experimental attempts. Just like ...more
This was one of the most incredibly beautiful books I've ever read. Barthelme's ability to bend and twist words, and to use them in ways never previously thought of is amazing! He's a literary contortionist. It's also absolutely necessary to mention the breadth of his topics - he touches upon everything. Poetic, beautiful, aweseome.
Michael Lieberman
Donald Barthelme: "Sixty Short Stories"

Bottom line: marvelously inventive, but not for most general readers.
I love these stories but only in short doses.

Barthelme is one of the most important twentieth century postmodern fiction writers and is especially well known for his short stories. I read "Sixty Short Stories" some years ago and returned to it because our short story book club recently read a story from it.

He is an imaginative craftsman who always has sometime to impart beyond, "The messag
Thom Dunn
Noteworthy for story "Game"--the envious meditation of madman in a missile silo whose counterpart won't let him play with his jacks.
Yeah, I understand, "a reaction against [insert mode of thinking or paradigm of thought]" etc., but it's not aesthetically capable, even on a basic story level, let alone the mechanics. It's basically the work of a person who has taken a course in creative writing and probably should stick to writing essays instead. The ideas are sound, but wouldn't an essay serve the author's purpose better? Atwood runs into similar problems as Barthelme where the ideas override the art. Yawn. Are we done with ...more
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  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
  • Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
  • The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989
  • Pricksongs and Descants
  • The Collected Stories
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • Selected Stories
  • The Age of Wire and String
  • The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel
  • Believers: A novella and stories
  • Mulligan Stew
  • I Sailed with Magellan
  • Stories in the Worst Way
  • The Wonders Of The Invisible World
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Stories (So Far)
  • The Little Disturbances of Man
  • Blow-Up and Other Stories
Donald Barthelme was born to two students at the University of Pennsylvania. The family moved to Texas two years later, where Barthelme's father would become a professor of architecture at the University of Houston, where Barthelme would later major in journalism. In 1951, still a student, he wrote his first articles for the Houston Post. Barthelme was drafted into the Korean War in 1953, arriving ...more
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