Forty Stories

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First edition

Forty Stories collects forty of Donald Barthelme's short stories, several of which originally appeared in The New Yorker. The book was first published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1987.

While Sixty Stories includes many longer narratives, the stories in Forty Stories are pithy. Many last for fewer than five pages, and display Barthelme's flash fictional tendencies. They also abound in historical references and surreal juxtapositions. One story involves a World War I Secret Police investigator, a trio of German warplanes, and the artist Paul Klee. Another is a parodic rewriting of the fairy-tale Bluebeard, perhaps inspired by Angela Carter's story "The Bloody Chamber." Yet another consists of a single seven-page-long sentence (without a concluding period).

The following stories appear in the book:

  1. Chablis
  2. On the Deck
  3. The Genius
  4. Opening
  5. Sindbad
  6. The Explanation
  7. Concerning the Bodyguard
  8. RIF
  9. The Palace at Four A.M.
  10. Jaws
  11. Conversations with Goethe
  12. Affection
  13. The New Owner
  14. Paul Klee [full title: "Engineer-Private Paul Klee Misplaces an Aircraft Between Milbertshoffen and Cambrai, March 1916"]
  15. Terminus
  16. The Educational Experience
  17. Bluebeard
  18. Departures
  19. Visitors
  20. The Wound
  21. At the Tolstoy Museum
  22. The Flight of Pigeons from the Palace
  23. A Few Moments of Sleeping and Waking
  24. The Temptation of St. Anthony
  25. Sentence
  26. Pepperoni
  27. Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby
  28. Lightning
  29. The Catechist
  30. Porcupines at the University
  31. Sakrete
  32. Captain Blood
  33. 110 West Sixty-first Street
  34. The Film
  35. Overnight to Many Distant Cities
  36. Construction
  37. Letters to the Editore
  38. Great Days
  39. The Baby
  40. January

Sixty Stories[edit]

Sixty Stories, a companion volume to Forty Stories, was published six years earlier, in 1981. It contains stories from Barthelme's first five collections.