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Forty Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 25, 2005


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437810
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like the title says, here are 40 short works culled from across Barthelme's career. Along with the similarly titled 60 Stories, this book provides one of the best samplings currently in print of Barthelme's unrivaled humor, his melancholy, the poetry of his line, and his considerable intellect. It includes pieces such as the famous "Sentence," (a single, several-page-long, unfinished sentence), "The Flight of Pigeons From the Palace," one of the writer's illustrated stories, and "Overnight To Many Distant Cities." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of pithy, brilliantly acerbic pieces is a companion to Sixty Stories, Barthelme's earlier retrospective volume. Barthelme spotlights the idiosyncratic, haughty, sometimes downright ludicrous behavior of human beings, but it is style rather than content which takes precedence. He plunges into each situation without preamble, then utilizes sinewy, staccato prose to snare our attention. In "The Genius," a man of extraordinary intellect receives endless accolades and homage, but privately, he is just an eccentric inebriate who loathes children and totes important papers in a green Sears, Roebuck tool box. "Concerning the Bodyguard" is a fusillade of typically gossipy questions about those who shield the famous and mighty: "How much does pleasing matter?" "Is the bodyguard sufficiently well-paid?" "Is there a pension?" In "Conversations with Goethe," Barthelme dethrones the renowned German author, who here spouts comical aphorisms such as "Art is the four percent interest on the municipal bond of life," and "Actors are the Scotch weevils in the salt port of honest effort." As demonstrated throughout this volume, Barthelme's manner of expression is strikingly unique, and his insights are consistently on target.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Which, I might add, is a good thing.
J. Jewell
During Barthelme's lifetime, I think many readers thought that his work would permanently alter the short story form.
Beauregard
His style of often sarcastic and edgy humour is possibly the most intellectually stimulating out there.
Phil Kretschman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Beauregard on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
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 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 should be done, and we would be innundated with Barthelme-like fiction. But I don't think that's really happened. There have been imitators, of course, but they've been mostly embarrassingly flat, replacing the master's edgy brilliance with silly incoherence. Barthelme defies all imitators; his stories continue to stand as one-of-a-kind monuments, written in a truly singular voice by a truly singular talent, to urban life in the late 20th century. Read them. I particularly love "The Genius," with its poignant and yet absurd portrait of the world's most brilliant man, and "At the Tolstoy Museum," with its hilarious drawings of the great author's supposedly gargantuan coat, etc. It's funny because it's (somehow) true, like all of his work. "40 Stories" is the best introduction to Barthelme, so if you don't know him, this is the place to start.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Noddy Box on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Just over ten years ago a deeply righteous hombre with a handle to match--Omnipot, tray bong, non?--wrote right here on Amazon a nifty little five-star review of Mister Barthelme's Forty Stories. So here's the thing: the dude's opening paragraph mirrors so exactly what I myself wanted to say about my own recent encounter with the approximately fantastic Donald Barthelme that I'm going to go ahead and reprint the whole thing and hope Mister Pot doesn't sue me:

"I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and couple three times was even a little sad and one two times was made pensive with head on hand till I laughed and laughed and laughed and finished the story and read it again and laughed and laughed and laughed..."

That was me to a total tee too, right down to the last laugh. Seriously, that's the whole nine yards in a single nutshell right there, O-Dog, you sum up in extra fine what a confounded pleasure it is to be shot full of magic bullets by this particular Don. Kudos to yudos in any case, Omnipot, I literally could not have put it better myself. All I can add I guess is even if the rest of you punters out there only end up reading a couple of these sublime flash fictions try to make sure the ones you choose include The Genius, Sinbad, especially Sinbad, Chablis, Construction, Lightning, RIF, and Letters to the Editore--mini masterpieces each one, massy minor triumphs in comic brevity. This dude Donald indubitably knew wherefore his Sam and knew wherefore what's more his Flann too the cheeky old devil and these wide open channels condense here to sometimes thrillingly familiar effect.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By arye orona on November 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This collection has many great short stories within it. Often, within this book, Barthelme shows himself to be an extremely creative and insightful writer. "Jaws" is a good example of this. Basically, it's a story about how people deal with their dissatisfaction in relationship; how lovers cope with significant others' inevitable inability to meet all their (the lovers') expectations. It follows a workers at a local A & P while he mediates the relationship of two customers (who are married to each other). He acts as a sort of counciler in their marriage. The interaction between the couple is extremely humorous, and yet very sad (as, I suppose, dysfunction can often be). It's an excellent piece of work, and it deals with a common theme throughout this collection: The dissatisfaction of couples in long-lasting relationships. "Chablis," "The Genius," and "Paul Klee..." are also all excellent short stories. They exhibit Barthelme's ability to be humorous and yet still get at an interesting/serious point (that is, not lose himself in zaniness).
After such praise, however, I must admit that this collection isn't without flaw. Out of the forty stories that are included in this book, I felt that about ten of them could have been pruned away. These stories (for example, "On the Deck," and "Blue Beard") seemed unfulfilled, and worse, overwritten. These, perhaps could have used a little more focus on content rather than style. It's true with almost any collection of short stories that not all of them are good, enjoyable, or interesting (that is, not all of them will catch your imagination). However, with this book there seemed to be quite a few of those.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phil Kretschman on December 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
I agree with every word of the previous review, but think we shouldn't overlook Barthelme's cutting wit. His style of often sarcastic and edgy humour is possibly the most intellectually stimulating out there. It's one thing to be creative, but to not only purvey a state of mind-expansion in your reader but make him/her smile or laugh while doing so deserves kudos. "The Baby" and "Porcupines" are perhaps his finest examples in this regard... brilliant. My dinky little review doesn't quite do this man justice, just pick this book up for starters then graduate to the slightly more challenging "60 Stories" when the hooks are planted.
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