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Sixty Stories

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,469 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews
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 Ba ...more
Hardcover, 457 pages
Published August 1st 1981 by Putnam Pub Group (T) (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 15, 2012 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 26, 2007 Sarah Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Christopher Klein
I refuse to review this until you read it or I re-read it. Suffice to say, for now, that this guy knows what's the story. There are, surprise, 60 stories here. And I thought 3 maybe 4 were misses or fouls. That leaves 56 maybe 57 homers. Some of them barely left the yard but many of them were way, way gone. Why am I continuing with this trite analogy? Perhaps it's because I can't play with the jacks. I am not well.

At the sentence level, Barthelme's ear is phenomenal. At the idea level, he's both
Sep 08, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2007 Mala rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Winch
How can I justify my indifference to Donald Barthelme? I’m not sure I can. No doubt these stories are/were innovative, unique, at times wildly inventive. They’re also, for the most part, easy to read, not daunting, but on the other hand not inviting―not to me anyway. For a few weeks I dipped into 60 Stories with moderate enjoyment, but soon noticed it was my “go to” books in times of distraction, when something more demanding would have tested my fractured concentration. Don’t get me wrong, he’s ...more
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!
Aug 13, 2008 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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
Guttersnipe Das
May 13, 2014 Guttersnipe Das rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jun 16, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
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
Oct 27, 2011 Tommy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2012 Will Dean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Disappointing. I really liked Forty Stories and I had been looking forward to more of the same, but unfortunately this book is the pits. Sure, there are a few that were outstanding (Margins; Me and Miss Mandible; Game; Critique de la Vie Quotidienne; The Sandman, The Rise of Capitalism; A City of Churches; The Captured Woman; The School) but for each one I liked, there were at least 2 that were a complete waste of my time. A lot of the junk in this book is completely nonsensical and schtick-y. I ...more
Alicia Grega
Jul 09, 2013 Alicia Grega rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2011 Dan Keating rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clara Amorim
Jul 27, 2015 Clara Amorim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just like the Forty Stories, it took my breath...!
Grant Patten
My introduction to "flash fiction". Best read as a supplement to something longer form, I think, otherwise this gets tiresome. There are some good ones, yeah. But there are also some really bad ones. When Barthelme is bad, his stuff just comes across as nonsense... borderline gibberish... which I guess some people dig. Good for them. I saw a quote from Boston Phoenix in my edition that compared Barthelme to Joyce. Yes there are many voices and points of view here. But the difference is Joyce had ...more
Stewart Mitchell
Sep 30, 2015 Stewart Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Donald Barthelme is a wizard! Who are these people, what are these worlds, why are these strange things happening in this book? Who can make sense of these stories?

My brain has been put in a blender named Barthelme and ripped to shreds. I can't form the right words to describe his writing, which is some strange combination of poetry, dialogue, lists, absurdity, black humor, and magic. These stories vary in the extreme, from a love story about an enormous balloon to the hilarious tale of a witch
Geoffrey Waring
Oct 25, 2014 Geoffrey Waring rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2014 Realini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 17, 2009 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  • Pricksongs and Descants
  • Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
  • The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989
  • The Age of Wire and String
  • Selected Stories
  • Believers: A novella and stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • Captain Maximus
  • Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories
  • Collected Stories and Later Writings
  • Searches and Seizures
  • Stories in the Worst Way
  • Mulligan Stew
  • Vintage Baldwin
  • Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
  • The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel
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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“How can you be alienated without first having been connected?” 19 likes
“And I sat there getting drunker and drunker and more in love and more in love.” 17 likes
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