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Forty Stories

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  2,189 ratings  ·  121 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 of 3,000)
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Paul
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
...more
Oriana
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
...more
Oscar
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
Sentimental Surrealist
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
...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
...more
Sus
not so impressed:
chablis
jaws
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
...more
Vienna X
At first I was very intrigued with this book, and I suppose I still am in many ways. 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 ...more
Jason
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
...more
Josh
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.
Doug Campbell
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
Jesse Cooley

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
...more
Allan MacDonell
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
Brian
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:
...more
Lukasz Pruski
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
...more
Guttersnipe Das
Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories
Penguin, 1989
introduction by Dave Eggers (2005)

Short fiction is capable of drastically more than we use it for. Donald Barthelme is proof of the fact. It’s like that cliche about the brain, that we only use ten percent of it. If you’re new to Barthelme, I suggest starting with Sixty Stories. All of his stories are mad and wildly inventive, but there’s something to be said for proceeding chronologically.

For me, enjoying Barthelme meant using strategies I learned whi
...more
Alison
I'm not sure the stories in /Forty Stories/ are as all-around fantastic as the ones in /Sixty Stories/, but that may just be because I'm a little tired, and because this is my third Barthelme book (sometimes spending a lot of time with a writer enables you to see what you don't care to see, such as, Barthelme's really a breast man. Nothing wrong with that--who isn't?--but TMI), and sometimes it's a little hard to recapture that BLOWS YOUR MIND feeling you get the first time you encounter a certa ...more
toni
Dec 03, 2014 toni is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
THE GENIUS

"I think that this thing, my work, has made me, in a sense, what I am. The work possesses a consciousness which shapes that of the worker. The work flatters the worker. Only the strongest worker can do this work, the work says. You must be a fine fellow, that you can do this work. But disaffection is also possible. The worker grows careless. The worker pays slight regard to the work, he ignores the work, he flirts with other work, he is unfaithful to the work. The work is insulted. And
...more
Raul Pires
Livro absolutamente brilhante. Histórias do dia a dia, carregadas de humor e metáfora, e aquele nonsense minimalista... Gostei muito!
Andrew
After each story, look at the way the light hits your window, and feel remarkably empty, yet not unhappy.
Ian Drew Forsyth
I like the play and experimentation, it can give me ideas to try out in my own fiction. But a lot of the absurdity can leave you with hollowed out content. If he was more musical, as in poetry, it might balance out the overload of nonsequitar
Favorites: The Genius, The Explanation, Sentence
Quotes:
A truly potent abstract concept avoids, resists closure. The ragged, blurred outlines of such a concept, like a net in which the fish have eaten large, gaping holes, permit entry and escape equally. Wha
...more
Elizabeth
This book was amusing, and would have been more so if I had been high while reading. The stories are all over the place, so it is hard to sum up this collection succinctly. One story mocks museums. Another, pokes fun at university politics, while another focuses on the the oddity of saint worship: "I wasn't a disciple, that would be putting it far too strongly; I was sort of like a friend."

"The higher orders of abstraction are just a nuisance, to some people, although to others, of course, they
...more
M
"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
...more
Ian
May 27, 2008 Ian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of vonnegut, beckett, albee
Recommended to Ian by: Sean Higgins
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adrian Stumpp
Barthelme is the quintessential super-pretentious post-modernist. These stories are all less than four pages long and run the gambit from clever to amazing to barely readable to barely written. Of the forty, quite a few are duds, but the gems make up for it. Barthelme loves wordplay and idea play. A normal Barthelme "trick" is to take an idiomatic figure of speech. I won't quote from the book specifically, but an example would be something like "I wanted to tell Maggy I was having an affair but ...more
Mike
During Barthelme's lifetime, I think many readers thought that his work would permanently alter the short story form. He achieved such powerful effects; his stories (many of which initially appeared in the New Yorker, but which also quickly became staples of college English courses) were so funny, so moving, so original and offbeat, and yet so deceptively simple and effortless-seeming. I certainly expected that other writers would come along and produce similar stories, since he had shown how it ...more
Mat
A wonderful, quirky and surreal collection of short stories.
The forty stories in this book range from downright hilarious to extremely bizarre (who was smoking the PCP?) to very deep and philosophical.
The stories entitled Chablis and The Baby are among the funniest short stories I have ever read. On the other hand, stories like On the Deck will leave the three letters WTF? behind swilling around your mouth like a new wine you are not quite sure how to swallow. My personal favourite one, though,
...more
Sara Kuhns
Barthelme's collection of short stories are post/ultra modern and often are not really stories. With this sort of writing I have to focus on the phrasing and turn of words, rather than the story, to enjoy it. I'll say it's not for everyone. It's absurd and, for me, abstruse. That said, and particularly as I am a writer--I think it's important to read experimental/modern literature because language is always changing and the way we use it changes as well.

If given my druthers, I'll go for a solid
...more
BHodges
A really fun group of really odd stories, most of which have no real beginning or ending in the traditional Aristotelian sense. If you're suffering from writer's block pick this one up and it might help a good deal. It was recommended to me by a friend who knew I could use some help getting situated in strange fiction. Barthelme's imagination is really fun, there's an underlying darkness/light mixture. His diary entries written by a friend of Goethe are fascinating, the story "Some of us had bee ...more
brain
I want, badly want, to give this book more than two stars, and I probably could if its title were twenty stories or maybe even twenty five stories. The thing, I learned, about absurdity is sometimes it comes together into something not absurd which makes you go, "oh," and other timees it never comes together, remains absurd, and makes you go, "heh, that was absurd." Read back to back, the stories, particularly the ones twoard the end of the book, tend to the latter version rather than the former ...more
fletch
With some of these stories, reading them under a covered porch with a hot cup of tea, I felt like I was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a good friend, the two of us chuckling endlessly while exchanging absurd non sequiturs whose punchlines could be repeated later as inside jokes that would be funny only to us. I think me and Donald would have been friends back in the day - not the best of friends, but close acquaintances - if I didn't get too exasperated by his snotty art references and privat ...more
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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.” 5 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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