Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon” (1966) is one of the strangest and most enduring short stories to come out of the second half of the twentieth century. Filled with Barthelme’s gift for observation and detail, his wild imagination, and his playful wit, “The Balloon” represents for many the work of a postmodern master at his postmodern peak. But who was Donald Barthelme? Why were “The Balloon” and his other stories so popular? And are these postmodern stories interesting merely as a reflection of their era, or do they still have meaning for us today? Mike Palindrome joins us for a discussion of Donald Barthelme and “The Balloon.”
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What makes a short story a short story? What can a short story do that a novel can’t? Can a story ever be TOO short? The President of the Literature Supporters Club stops by to discuss the length of fiction, with some help from Lydia Davis, Donald Barthelme, Edgar Allan Poe, Alice Munro, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Roberto Bolano, Georges Simenon, Alberto Moravia, Augusto Monterroso, Jonathan Franzen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saul Bellow, and Franz Kafka.