In 1966, Donald Barthelme became the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. This monetary award provided him the necessary financial cushion to complete his novel Snow White while still being able to provide for his family. The result was a seamless combination of two of his greatest obsessions: postmodern literary theory and the anxiety engendered by parent-child relationships. In Barthelme’s capable hands, the familiar fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm becomes a metaphor for the big dreams that American continues to promise without ever being able to deliver.
The nymphomaniacal Snow White and the dwarves she keeps in relative bondage to serve her every need reflects American society’s obsession with consumerism. Through this narrative, Barthelme comments on holding onto the illusion of desiring egalitarianism while constructing everything to ensure that such an idealistic dream remains deferred. Snow White's wistful realization that she is out of joint with her times becomes a refrain for the seemingly unique American dissatisfaction with revolutions that bring them what they were fighting for.
Snow White was Barthelme’s first published novel after several years of building a reputation as a critical darling through short stories published in prestigious periodicals like New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the Paris Review and even Mademoiselle. Despite the novel’s clear potential for adaptation into film, it remains curiously ignored by Hollywood even at the height of the era in the early 21st century, when fairy tale revisionism became a popular sub-genre on both the big and small screen.