Biography of Donald Barthelme

Donald Barthelme was an American postmodernist writer known for his experimental short fiction and novels. Born in 1931, he was raised in Houston by a Roman Catholic family, which would later influence his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church in his fiction. He attended the University of Houston and studied journalism, although he never finished his degree and began to work as a journalist. He served as the art director for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. At the same time, he published his first short story in the New Yorker, marking the start of a close relationship with the magazine that would continue over the rest of his lifetime.

Barthelme was a prolific short-story writer and wrote over a hundred short stories. He also published four novels; Snow White was the first. His novels utilize a "collage" style, combining different styles and small sections of prose in an experimental fashion. His work is often satirical and combines humor with cynical criticism of societal, political, literary, and religious institutions. While his novels are known as postmodern, they feature a variety of influences from different literary periods. He credited Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Fyodor Dostoevsky as some of his primary influences. In Snow White, his use of puns and absurdity appears distinctly modernist, stemming from Beckett and Joyce's works.

He identified himself as a postmodernist and referred to himself within the group of writers regarded as postmodernists at the time such as John Barth, John Hawkes, William Gass, Robert Coover, and Thomas Pynchon.

Study Guides on Works by Donald Barthelme

Donald Barthelme's Snow White, published in 1967, is a postmodernist retelling of the Snow White fairytale. Snow White and the seven dwarves—Bill, Kevin, Edward, Hubert, Henry, Clem, and Dan—share an apartment and the novel loosely focuses on the...