Donald Barthelme's Sixty Stories is a collection of some of his greatest work from the 1960s and 1970s. Each of these pieces is raucous, absurd, incisive, and beautiful; each represents not only a story, but the re-imagination of the story as a form. And in each, as writer David Gates points out in the introduction, Barthelme manages to "restore freshness to a much handled language"
It's difficult to know when to take Barthelme's characters seriously, and narrator Dennis Holland appears to delight in this ambiguity as he portrays a staggering slew of characters with an equally wide array of accents and tones. Holland's versatility as a narrator is particularly apparent in dialogue-rich stories like "Daumier", where he shifts flawlessly between characters as unalike as Celeste and Mr. Hawkins a young French au-pair and an old Western cowboy who are, themselves, a figment of the narrator-writer's imagination. However playfully Mr. Holland portrays his characters, and despite their sometimes tenuous existence even as entities of fiction, his narration manages to always treat them with humanity and respect.
If Barthelme's humor is at times obscured by the bizarreness of his narratives, Mr. Holland's excellent sense of timing casts it wittily into relief. In Holland's hands, stories like "The Death of Edward Lear", in which an aging, self-described "nonsense writer and landscape painter" invites acquaintances to his bedside to witness the moment of his death, are likely to elicit outright laughter where silent reading might have brought on a slow smile.
In other places, such as "The Balloon", Holland's narration is subtle, allowing Barthelme's brilliant, stunning language to create for the listener a world both alien and familiar. Throughout the whole range of these stories, Holland's narration is cheerful, even amused a characteristic that underlies the sometimes biting incisiveness of Barthelme's characters and scenes.
Though Barthelme's loose narrative structure can sometimes be challenging to follow without the help of the physical page (it would be ideal to read along as you listen), this collection feels truly brought to life by Dennis Holland's gifted narration. Sixty Stories is a delightful, vibrant listen. Emily Elert
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 to the bedrock of our longings, dreams, and angsts.
Like all of Barthelme's work, the 60 stories collected in this volume are triumphs of language and perception, at once unsettling and irresistible.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Donald Barthelme's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Tracy Daugherty about the life and work of Donald Barthelme – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1983 Donald Barthelme; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Donald Barthelme may have influenced the short story in his time as much as Hemingway and O'Hara did in theirs. Sixty Stories is a whole earth catalog of life in our time." (The New York Times)
"Barthelme can focus our feeling into a bright point that can raise a blister. These 60 stories show him inventing at full pitch." (The Washington Post)
If this is what reading fiction sounded like in my head, I would burn all of the books. Even your books, just to be safe.
The narrator is a maniac with accents. Female characters sound like a man who has just been kicked in the balls, kids sound like a man who has been kicked in the balls a second time. Caricatures of French, German, Spanish, Southern, Irish etc, etc. Sometimes a character has an obnoxious accent for no reason at all.
Mr. Holland also alerts the listener to anything that might have a subtle humor, by using exaggeration and emphasis. I half expected him to ask me "did you get that? Eh? Eh? wink* wink*...it's funny, Wait I'll read it again..." Listening to these stories made me cringe, like when you see a man getting kicked in the balls, and I enjoy reading this writer's work.
Mr. Holland does have moments when he recedes, and gives the listener some personal space. "The Game" is read well
Just let the accents go, man. You don't need that crutch! You can do better than that! You ARE better than that.
I believe in you.
These absurd stories can only be taken in small doses. The language sparkles, but the stories are about little, if anything.
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