Simon is amazed by what he doesn’t care about.

You can find a lot of Barthelme on the internet, but you cannot find all of “The Balloon.” Part of it is here, but that isn’t all of it. I know because I once said that I found the ending of “The Balloon” spectacularly adorable, which was immediately misinterpreted, and that adorableness is missing from this excerpt. In any case

Here, Henry, take this package of money I have wrapped for you, because we have been doing so well in the business here, and I admire the way you bruise the tulips…

I’ve recently finished Paradise¬†which is about a married architect who lives away from his wife and with three other women who insist upon offering him their nubile young bodies, often simultaneously. The back of the book calls it “a meditation on the melancholy of fulfilled desire,” how I often imagine most everyone.



Patron Saint of the Perpetually Unsatisfied

People often respond to Barthelme et al with a disgust at their lack of real characters, which I could not disagree with more vehemently [yes you could. you’ve never responded with violence, which would be vehement-est. even your self-characterization is a lie!] “Tim, the professional whistler, is a sad Saab of a man about thirty.” pg. 114 2005 Dalkey Archive Press edition. I have met that man.

The architect falls in love with a poet. Crafty. I have wanted to be an architect since I was born but am no good at math, at all. How nice it would be to make things you could live in. Barthelme’s sentences, though. Better than log cabins.

She holds out an empty wineglass. Simon pouring.



Barthelme’s father was an architect.


  1. Posted January 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    i had a very similar experience about the end of “the balloon”! i only had a copy of ‘forty stories’ for awhile and not ‘sixty stories’ but i had read “the balloon” in an anthology for class or something and loved it and then i would read it on that website and i would think it wasn’t as good as i remembered it and then time would pass and i still had this submerged memory of it being really lovely so i would try to read it on the website again to get what i had forgotten but couldn’t, which was really frustrating. then i got a paperback of “sixty stories” and realized the difference and how crucial that ending it is. i think it’s the reintroduction of the first person narrator who has been hidden for the whole story as he describes this exterior phenomenon — carver also did it well in some story but it’s something that barthelme is so good at (if i am not overremembering, he did it a bunch – one place i can think of the end of “robert kennedy saved from drowning”)

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