Donald BarthelmeBoldly Experimental Writer
Unequaled innovator of experimental fiction.
If there's a point at which the philosophical, the poetic, the surreal, and the wistfully comedic converge, chances are it's located somewhere in a story by Donald Barthelme. His work fused the modernist credo of Make It New! with a post-modern strain of critical self-awareness. Rather than producing prose that was arch, effete, or crippled with self-consciousness, in story after story, Bartheleme continually fabricated new ways to express an array of emotions and ideas while expanding the capacities of the short story form itself. Numbered sentences, collaged clip art, interrupted thoughts, typographical oddities: all were legitimate means or materials to be used in the service of his art. Because of the risks involved in his boldly experimental approach, Bartheleme's work, at times, simply fell flat—his novels, particularly Snow White, and the late-period Paradise, were blasted by critics. But while his fictions may not have always succeeded, the spirit in which they were written redeems nearly all of them. That spirit, both genuine and rare, is a key component of Barthelme's legacy. Generations of writers who came after him may proudly claim him as an influence, but few if any have come close to approximating the elusive, inspiring je ne sais quoi of his work.