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Sixty Stories

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  5,313 ratings  ·  317 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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4.20  · 
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Dec 12, 2011 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
Glenn Russell
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Dazzling collection of postmodern blisters and blasters, usually as short as three, four or five pages but some as long as twelve pages, stories written in dialogue or lists or letters or narrative, covering topics from highbrow culture to the lowbrow scuzzy, from the everyday to the sensational and historic, an innovative collection from one of the most perceptive wordsmiths ever to put pen to paper or fingers to typewriter. Many are the stories I found wickedly astute, including these two:

Sep 19, 2009 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
Apr 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
The Indeterminacy of the Quotidian

"Whereof one cannot speak with clarity,
Thereof might one speak with obliquity."

D. J. Wittgenstein

All is Not Right in Barthelmeland

By the time I'd read the first couple of these 60 stories, I had started to wonder whether something in Barthelmeland was askew, whether something was not quite "right". So the purpose of much of my subsequent reading was to work out the cause. Here is the hypothesis that emerged:

Human beings communicate primarily by language. Langua
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
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
داستانهاش بهشدت به سلیقه من نزدیکه.
داستان هایی با اتفاقاتی عجیب و که خیلی طبیعی و معمولی بیان میشن، داستانهایی که توش هرچیزی رو ممکنه پیداکنی، داستانهایی با کلی ساختارشکنی و کارای جدید و جالب و خلاق، که نمیشه حتا به بعضیاش گفت داستان!

بعضی از داستانهاش ممکنه زیاد دوستداشتنی نباشن و به این علت ۵ ستاره ندادم. ولی بعضی داستانهاش به شدت محشرن و هزارتا ستاره هم براشون کمه.

ممکنه با خوندنش آدم ایده بگیره برای نوشتن. خلاق نوشتن.

جالبیش اینه که داستانهایی که طنز قویای دارن، صرفن طنز نیستن و توش چیزهای مختل
Franco  Santos
Espectacular antología de Donald Barthelme. Historias muy experimentales, fragmentadas, simbólicas, reales, que resaltan las verdaderas relaciones humanas. Después de leer Sixty Stories ya no me quedan dudas de que Barthelme es uno de mis cuentistas favoritos.

Relatos inolvidables: "A Shower of Gold", "Me and Miss Mandible", "Game", "The Balloon", "Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning", "Report", "Views of My Father Weeping", "On Angels", "The Sandman", "Kierkegaard Unfair to Schlegel", "Daumier",
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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!
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
Sep 13, 2011 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.
Jun 16, 2007 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
Mar 31, 2008 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.
سه داستان در حد اعلا و پنج ستاره بود ، باقیش مزخرف.
Borges for depressed people.
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
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
Guttersnipe Das
May 13, 2014 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
Ο Τζόναθαν Μπάρθελμ  τοποθετήθηκε στον αναγνωστικό μου διάβα ως ένα τοτέμ συγγραφικό, ένας άνθρωπος με εντυπωσιακές ικανότητες στην μικρή φόρμα, που ακόμα μνημονεύεται ως από τους μεγαλύτερους Αμερικάνους δεξιοτέχνες διηγηματογράφους. Λίγο αργότερα, έχοντας στην κατοχή μου το βιβλίο, ανακάλυψα πως ο Μπάρθελμ βρίσκεται σε ένα αφιέρωμα του Guardian που διαβάζω σε δόσεις εδώ και καιρό σχετικά με σημαντικούς συγγραφείς του διηγήματος. Γενικά ένιωθα καλά, ξεκινώντας τούτον τον τόμο που όπως ξεκάθαρα ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fictions
Postmodern humor of a sort that might remind readers of the work of writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon or Robert Coover. Barthelme's fictions are formally experimental, employing unconventional methods of storytelling and frequently depicting unreal situations. Narrators in a few of them are unreliable; in others, narration is completely absent, the "stories" consisting entirely of unattributed dialogue.

Along with stories selected from earlier Barthelme collections such as Unspeakable Pr
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
سه داستان اين كتاب فقط از ديالوگ بين دو نفر تشكيل شده. دو داستان نقيضه هايي از كتاب اوژني گرانده و بتمن است. يك داستان بيست صحنه ظاهراً بي ربط از زندگي برادرِ جان اف كندي است. با اين تفاصير مي شود گفت بارتلمي نويسنده اي پست مدرن است كه شخصيت، توالي زماني، دستور زبان و طرح را مردود مي داند. سه داستانِ اولين كار بدِ بچه، دوستمان كلبي و جهش هركدام به تنهايي پنج ستاره مي گيرند و از طرفي داستان هايي در كتاب وجود دارند كه لايق يك ستاره اند. بارتلمي به بيان مشكلاتي مي پردازد كه پيامد دنياي عاري از معيا ...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
Маx Nestelieiev
дивна колекція авторського вибраного. дуже різні за якістю тексти. деякі ледь не банальні жарти, а декотрі надскладні формальні експерименти, є навіть шматок з роману "Мертвий Батько" ("Настанови синам"). Бартелмі, певно, найкращий американський майстер малих епічних форм, найвинахідливіший, але це геть не зрозуміло з цього видання, бо тут неоковирні примітки - недоречні й мінімальні, хоча переклади ніби непогані. Найцікавіші тексти - Золотий дощ, Повітряна куля, Аліса, Роберт Кеннеді, Доповідь, ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pode o absurdo ser melancólico? E divertido? E comovente? Pode ser esta uma das melhores colectâneas que já li?
Aug 31, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Alicia Grega
Jan 10, 2013 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
You wouldn't think to find a heart beneath the glittering surface of such postmodern stories, would you? Yet there it is. In part, this unexpected gift is due to the poignant and just plain funny ways Barthelme will build a sentence.

Consider "Rebecca," about Rebecca Lizard's effort to change her "ugly, reptilian, thoroughly unacceptable last name" and her love for Hilda. Yes, Rebecca is a lizard, though she's also a person. Is that a problem to reconcile? Not for Barthelme. And so, near the end
Erik F.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
A mixed bag, but an extremely interesting one. These stories have iconoclastic and seemingly improvisational qualities that I found irresistible; Barthelme's anarchic imagination and unpredictability are major reasons for recommending him to readers with offbeat sensibilities. Funny, unexpectedly poignant, and downright weird.
Adam Dalva
The thing with this is that there are maybe 15 bonafide five star stories and it actually adds up to more than the sum of its parts because of that, but there were large chunks of it that were a total slog. call it a 3.45
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: experimental
I’m not sure what the hell POSTMODERNISM actually means, but I do know that some of my favorite authors or novels are classified as such. David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, Don Delillo. I’ve occasionally heard another name bandied about, less well-known but highly influential. That would be Donald Barthelme.

I want to say that Barthelme’s relation to those other guys is quite shallow, and he does feel entirely unique, but in places it hews very closely to what will become Brief Interviews with
Geoffrey Waring
Oct 25, 2014 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
Peter Landau
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First FORTY STORIES and now SIXTY STORIES, if I was good at math I could tell you what Donald Barthelme would publish next. But he’s dead. All I can do is read though his many short stories and ask, Why wasn’t this man a comedian? The tales are full of one-liners and crazy setups, sort of like a literary version of those What If comics I read as a kid. What If the Hulk was Polka-Dot Instead of Green? I’m sure there’s an underlying logic to these pieces, but I’m not smart enough to find them. 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
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donald Barthelme was a virtuoso of absurd and occasionally hilarious stories, and who doesn't need a little more humor in their fiction? This isn't a Greatest Hits collection, so there are a considerable amount of strange, experimental misses and ditties, especially towards the end with his later collections. Yet, when Barthelme gets it right, you have a perfect trifecta of surrealism, humor, and metaphor and a story that deserves to canonized with the best of them. "City Life" might be the best ...more
Chris M
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to rate this book, because this has some of best stories I've ever read, but you have to slog through a lot of pretentious B.S. stories. Took me forever to get trough all 60. I highly recommend reading the Greatest Hits of Donald Barthelme, such as 'I Built A Little City' and 'Indian Uprising' or 'Game' and many other amazing stories, 'The School', 'The Balloon', 'Robert Kennedy Saved From Drowning'.... But maybe not all of his stories.
Donny seemed to have the strategy of writing as m
Clara Amorim
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just like the Forty Stories, it took my breath...!
Stewart Mitchell
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2014 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
Dec 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Dean
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 27, 2011 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
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very very interesting book. I can understand why I found this book here on Goodreads as a suggestion based on my appreciation of Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai. My saying that is tantamount to high praise. However, I must say that some stories were more enjoyable than others; some were either too far out there for me to understand and enjoy properly; others were slightly boring. Most were interesting, though, and in very different, innovative ways.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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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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“And I sat there getting drunker and drunker and more in love and more in love.” 25 likes
“How can you be alienated without first having been connected?” 21 likes
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