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Forty Stories

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  2,800 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
Offers a collection of tales that reflects society's foibles, including, At the Tolstoy Museum, Sentence, and Porcupines at the University.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 1989 by Penguin Books (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Glenn Russell
Apr 03, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I openly admit my tastes tends to be a bit quirky, even oddball, which probably accounts for the fact that I really, really, really enjoyed two stories in this collection, two stories not given so much as a mention in other reviews, at least the ones I’ve read on this thread. And what, you may ask, are those two Donald Barthelme stories? Answer: Chablis and The New Owner. And I really, really, really had a blast doing the write-up of each of these yummy chocolate snappers. After sampling as per
Paul Bryant
From "Engineer-Private Paul Klee misplaces an Aircraft between Milbertshofen and Cambral, March 1916" :

"We do not have your secrets and that is what we are after, your secrets. Our first secret is where we are. No one knows. Our second secret is how many of us there are. No one knows. Omnipresence is our goal. We do not even need real omnipresence. The theory of omnipresence is enough. With omnipresence, hand-in-hand as it were, goes omniscience. And with omniscience and omnipresence, hand-in-ha
Sentimental Surrealist
Feb 20, 2014 Sentimental Surrealist rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: collection
Forty Things to Know About Barthelme

1. He had a beard.
2. He had a bad relationship with his father.
3. His father was an architect of some renown
4. He was an experimental writer, considered by many to be among the best of his generation.
5. Taking a sample of ten Barthelme stories, three will be genius, six will be good, one will be crap.
6. His more famous stories include "The Balloon," "Me and Mrs. Mandible," "At the End of the Mechanical Age," "King of Jazz" (none of which are included here), "T
Aug 29, 2008 Oriana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
Usually when I find a pile of books in a box on the sidewalk it's filled with junk books, like self-help finance twaddle and new-age crap about death and terrible pop fiction. So imagine my surprise when, underneath The Artist's Way and Lovely Bones, I found this book! Yay!!

Anyway, this was both better and worse than I expected. As a collection, it's really uneven; some stories I could only read a paragraph or two before frantically paging through to the next one, whereas others I actually re-re
Estos ’40 relatos’ (Forty Stories, 1987) de Donald Barthelme, enganchan desde la primera frase. (Por ejemplo, ‘Chablis’, el primer cuento: ”Mi mujer quiere un perro, aunque ya tiene una niña. La niña tiene casi dos años. Según ella, es la niña la que quiere el perro”.) Y es que Barthelme sabe cómo llamar la atención del lector. Todos los cuentos son diferentes: algunos humorísticos, otros paródicos, otros absurdos o excéntricos, pero bajo todos ellos subyace algo más profundo, un reflejo del sin ...more
MJ Nicholls
I don't know what happened. There I was, excited to cadge a library copy of a Barthelme book, a rarity on these shores, having stored up eight months of warm feelings for Sixty Stories. But no. It all came crashing down with this insufferable series of self-ironising experiments, non sequiturs, intellectual masturbations and opaque parodies.

What happened? Well, it is entirely possible Sixty Stories exhausted the capabilities of Mr. B, so widely adored among the McSweeney's generation, serving up
Apr 19, 2016 Hakan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tuhaf ve zor öyküler. daha doğrusu, zorlayıcı. okuru ne diline ne içeriğine alıştırıyor barthelme. kitabı sevdiğinizi düşündükten dakikalar sonra bırakma isteği duyabilirsiniz. barthelme'nin özellikle istediği bu: çok keyif verebilirim size, beni çok sevebilirsiniz ama hayır!..devam etmek istiyorsanız zorlanın, yorulun, birlikte arayalım, sorgulayalım. sonunda bir bütüne, bir anlama ulaşmak da yok üstelik. böyle bir katılıma ikna edecek ne var derseniz: görkemli, ışıl ışıl bir zeka, yaratıcılığı ...more
Doug Campbell
Apr 06, 2011 Doug Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donald Barthelme is an experimental and postmodern writer who employs a wide range of strange devices that helped him create emotion and feeling in the reader. In his short story collection, 40 Stories, he constructs an entire story though a question and answer session, he juxtaposes pictures with text to create greater effect, and one story is several letters to an editor. I have chosen to focus on one story in the collection in order to fully explain what is at play in Barthelme’s writing so a ...more
Alika Yarnell
I was very intrigued with this book. I like how the stories are all short and can be read easily in one sitting. They all are so different, and yet have a similar tone. I like how they take me to a unique place every time, a world which I might have never been exposed to. I don't feel I can honestly say that I understand any of these stories, but there are some of them that definitely strike me as being more meaningful than others and some which I feel just depend on personal preference. Regardl ...more
Mar 11, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am so glad that I came to Donald Barthelme by way of Charles Baxter. And after reading Barthelme's short fiction, I understand more fully why Dave Eggers felt like a thief after reading Barthelme following the publication of his fiction. He's an original, a genre defining giant, and his writing just doesn't give a shit whether or not you get it (admittedly several stories, I didn't) - he's plowing forward without you.

"Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby" (found here for free http:
Jul 14, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the funniest book I have read in a long time. I can't remember the last book that made me laugh out loud as much as this one. Barthelme has to be one of the most underrated writers of the last century.

The stories in this collection are very short, usually 3-5 pages, and all are fairly fragmented, oblique works of art. I'd recommend Barthelme to any fan of the post-moderns or experimental fiction in general. You know you are in for a good story that opens with lines like:

"Some of us had
Jan 02, 2009 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I havn't written any reviews on this thing yet, but this book was really what I've been looking for in fiction for a long time. Ecstatic language that goes on sprawling tangents with wonderful imagery that is woven together into very concise endings. It's also extremely witty and hilarious. All of these qualities make it a very enjoyable read but at the same time it's also intelligent and academic. Barthelme definitely knows exactly what he's doing.
Sep 07, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sixty Stories minus Twenty. Otherwise same effects and side-effects.
Aug 18, 2007 Sus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
not so impressed:
the new owner (yes, i know you're published in the new yorker, i know new yorkers have their heads up their own asses, but stop whining, dude, stop whining)
departures (see complaint 1, below)
the wound (can you be 'too surreal'? i don't know the answer to that. but can you be 'surreal without sufficient development and/or meaning', and therefore unsatisfying? to that i say yes. (call this complaint number 3.))
sentence (is one allowed to complain of gimmickry when you r
Jesse Cooley
Apr 02, 2011 Jesse Cooley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Donald Barthelme is the first and foremost of a slew of sixties and seventies authors to first bend and shape fiction into what we know of as “metafiction”. Metafiction deals with writing about writing, self-conscious writing, or writing that merely draws attention to the act of written construction. Barthelme does this best (in my humble opinion) with Forty Stories, a lofty collection of stories of various lengths and dimensions. Barthelme here pioneers the micro-story (story which is vehement
Allan MacDonell
Mar 06, 2013 Allan MacDonell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was a child, barely a teen, two of my suburban high school’s advanced-placement word nerds were fond of flashing a shared Donald Barthelme paperback that had a sexually suggestive cover illustration, perhaps featuring a woman’s bare breasts. These guys, the type of guys who could recite swatches of dialogue from 200 Motels, cornered you at lunch while you were trying to get high like a normal person and read concise sections of Barthelme, then lurked in smug silence as if they had just dr ...more
Dec 29, 2016 Moonglum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the Carrollian language in these stories. The language jangled my brain in a good way, the way Shakespeare or jazz might, and whenever I put the book down, there would be a smile, or at the least an evil grin, on my face.

Some of my favorite stories were:

The Genius: because the character of the genius presented a good comic schtick for the D&D wizard. The wizard could have a medal for future accomplishments in the field of transtemporal teleportation.

Sinbad: One of his fun fairy tal
Dec 18, 2016 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just delightful. Highlights:
Concerning the Bodyguard
The New Owner
Engineer-Private Paul Klee Misplaces an Aircraft between Milbertshoffen and Cambrai, March 1916
The Wound
At the Tolstoy Museum
The Temptation of St. Anthony
Some of Us Have Been Threatening Our Friend Colby

Most of the others have lovely redeeming features too.
Peter Landau
Feb 04, 2015 Peter Landau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why has it taken me so long to read Donald Barthelme? I’ve known about him for years and own several of his books. I think it’s because dipping into FORTY STORIES is like going to another country where you don’t known the language or the customs, which are familiar but just askew enough to remain foreign. There’s a sense of adventure in turning these pages, and I guess initially I’m uncomfortable. It takes me a beat to get past the shock of the new. My favorite things were usually the most despi ...more
Jennifer Gifford
Feb 24, 2015 Jennifer Gifford rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where do I start? The stories are one dimensional, with paper thin characters composing uninteresting snippets of lives of the above mentioned characters. I couldn't even finish the whole book because it was just aweful. No real sense of togetherness (which is usually an underlying theme in a collection of work), no real direction, either. The stories are trite, boring, and worse, poorly structured.
Andrey Shchekin
Barthelme is one of the authors which defines postmodern and deconstruction for me. Each story is not only a new story, but also a new way of telling stories.

It's probably worth to start with Sixty Stories. I read them a very long time ago, but in memory they are better than this one.

Doesn't mean it isn't worth reading.

“The Secret Police said:
We have secrets. We have many secrets. We desire all secrets. We do not have your secrets and that is what we are after, your secrets.”
Stewart Mitchell
Mar 09, 2016 Stewart Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars.

Barthelme continues to confound, if not amaze, in this collection. Much like in Sixty Stories, these very short stories are episodic, absurd to the point of incomprehension, hilarious, and extraordinarily well-written. However, Forty Stories seems to be composed mainly of the leftovers from the 5-star feast that the other collection is, and some ideas fall flat. In short, this is a very good companion collection, but I wouldn't recommend it on its own.
Ryan Williams
Jun 26, 2015 Ryan Williams rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Never got why the Yanks were so stuck on him.
After each story, look at the way the light hits your window, and feel remarkably empty, yet not unhappy.
Temiz, güzel bir çeviri ile Barthélme öykülerini bize ulaştıran Monokl yayınlarına teşekkürler. ...
Çarpıcı, irkiltici, keyifli, mizahi, ...
Her biri farklı, okunmaya değer öyküler. ..
Jan 07, 2017 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having finally arrived in New York via Las Vegas the porcupines were admitted to a mid-level college of some renown for their Department of Anthropology, Bureaucracy and Sheepdog Etymology. Within a 10 mile radius, for many weeks, not a single garbage can could be found nor were any windshields left unsmashed.
Jack Beaton
Some of these stories just left me behind. Perhaps if I read and re-read I could have gotten further. But I pushed through it. I did find some brilliant, funny, surprising. My favorites: Some of Us Had Been Threatening Colby and The Baby.
Mar 18, 2017 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Barthelme is subversive poignancy, using the absurd to get past your defenses without softening it in the least. The blurry effect of a highly educated man on hard liquor.
May 05, 2012 M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story
"The idea of the film is that it not be like other films" - The Film, 40 stories.

The idea of many of the stories in this collection is that they not be like other stories. Barthelme's wild imagination, his taste for the absurd, and his galgenhumor make the stories interesting and entertaining nonetheless.

Barthelme is an experimentalist in form. Concerning the Bodyguard, a story (almost) entirely told in the interrogative form, is a very successful experiment where the form and the content are
Lukasz Pruski
Jun 29, 2014 Lukasz Pruski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since it would be presumptuous of me to try to define postmodern literature, I will borrow the famous phrase from Justice Potter Stewart:"I know it when I see it". Donald Barthelme's "Forty Stories" (1987) is certainly a postmodern work. It is a companion volume to his "Sixty Stories" that I haven't yet read, but definitely will.

Some of the 40 pieces in this volume are proper stories, but many are not; some are literary gimmicks (of high quality, to be sure), for instance, the text of "Concerni
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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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“You came and fell upon me, I was sitting in the wicker chair. The wicker exclaimed as your weight fell upon me. You were light, I thought, and I thought how good it was of you to do this. We'd never touched before.” 7 likes
“Pia was chopping up an enormous cabbage, a cabbage big as a basketball. The cabbage was of an extraordinary size. It was a big cabbage. “That’s a big cabbage,” Edward said. “Big,” Pia said.” 2 likes
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