is an artist, educator, editor, and writer, currently teaching at
the University of Southern Mississippi.
He is probably best known for his fiction, which many critics place
into the school of literary minimalism, though Barthelme is himself
uncomfortable with the term.
Born October 10, 1943, in Houston,
Texas, Barthelme has spent much of his time in the South. His is
a literary family; two of his brothers, Donald and Steve,
are also respected writers. Barthelme attended Tulane
University in 1961-62, and the University of Houston from 1962-65,
and in 66-67. In 1965-66, he studied at the Museum of Fine Arts
in Houston, Texas. He originally intended to be an painter.
In fact, he worked in the art field
for several years after completing his undergraduate work, including
jobs as an architectural draftsman, an exhibit installer, assistant
to the director of the Kornblee Gallery in New York City, and creative
director and senior writer at various Houston, TX, advertising firms.
His artwork was featured in many
galleries in the late sixties and early seventies, including the
Louisiana Gallery in Houston, TX (1965, 1967), the Museum of Normal
Art in New York City (1967), the Seattle Art Museum in Washington
State (1969), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (1970).
Because, as Barthelme has put it,
he didnt want to carry big pieces of lumber through
the streets of New York all his life, he changed career direction
somewhere during this period. In 1977, he earned an M.A. from Johns
Hopkins University and took a position as a professor at the
University of Southern Mississippi, where he still teaches and where
he edits the Mississippi
In 1976-77, he received the Eliot
Coleman Award for prose from Johns
Hopkins University for his short story, Storyteller.
He was also the recipient of grants from the National
Endowment for the Arts in 1979 and 1980.
Barthelmes reputation as
a practioner of literary minimalism is due to many of the persistent
themes and motifs that recur throughout his fiction. Much of his
fiction is set in the New South of shopping malls and
neon, Coca-Cola and McDonalds.
Popular culture references blanket his work and, in the process,
destroy the uniqueness of his fictional settings.
Barthelme is also, as reviewer
James Kaufman puts it, not particularly interested in
plot or story but rather in scenes, in snapshots which
illustrate such fashionable problems as fear of intimacy, loneliness,
hostility, and other sub-clinical manifestations of the modern malaise.
Loneliness and alienation, and the fear of them, are persistent
themes in his fiction.
Because of his placeless settings
and his emphasis on alienation, he has been called by at least one
reviewer, Daniel Akst, the bard of suburban disconnectedness.
Barthelme, himself, has noted in
an interview that he likes to write about people who show
what they think and feel through action and reactions, through choices,
through oblique bits of dialogue, but who probably dont talk
about those same thoughts or feelings, perhaps because theyve
noticed that things talked about (1) are often some distance from
things felt, and (2) sometimes tend to disappear in all the talk.
In other words, theyre skeptical about language and its use.
Related Links & Info
Paul Signacs The Bonaventure Pine (1893) is one of
the art works on display at Houstons Museum
of Fine Arts web site.
Before he turned to writing, Frederick Barthelmes art was
displayed in New Yorks Museum
of Modern Art and other galleries.
Dramatic works: Screenplays
- Second Marriage. 1985.
- Tracer. 1986.
- War and War. 1971
- Second Marriage. New York: Simon & Schuster,
- Tracer. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.
- Two Against One. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
- Natural Selection. New York: Viking, 1989.
- The Brothers. New York: Viking, 1993.
- Painted Desert. New York: Viking, 1995.
- Bob the Gambler. Boston: Houghton-Miflin, 1997.
Fiction: Short Story Collections
- Rangoon. 1970.
- Moon Deluxe. Simon & Schuster, 1983.
- Chroma. Simon & Schuster, 1987.
- The Law of Averages: New & Selected Stories. Counterpoint,
Additional Short Story Publications:
Big Room. Ploughshares (Fall 1995).
Mississippi Review Web Edition 1.2 (May 1995).
Enterzone, Episode 4 (1995).
- (With Steven Barthelme)
Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Articles and Book Reviews:
- Aldridge, John W. Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and
the New Assembly Line Fiction. New York: Scribners, 1992.
- Artner, Alan G. Barthelme on Men Versus Women: Appreciating
the Oddness of Things. Rev. of Second Marriage,
by Frederick Barthelme. Chicago Tribune Book World (7 Oct.
1984): sec. 14: 7.
- Atwood, Margaret. Male and Lonely. Rev. of Moon
Deluxe, by Frederick Barthelme. New York Times Book Review
(31 July 1983): 1, 22.
- Bernstein, Richard. After
a Loss at Blackjack, Trouble Was in the Cards. Review
of The Brothers, by Frederick Barthelme. New York Times
Book Review (7 November 1997).
- Brinkmeyer, Robert H. Suburban Culture, Imaginative Wonder:
The Fiction of Frederick Barthelme. Studies in the Literary
Imagination 27 (Fall 1994): 105-14.
- Broyard, Anatole. Books
of the Times. Review of Second Marriage, by Frederick
Barthelme. New York Times (28 September 1984).
- Burroway, Janet. Whatever
Happens. Rev. of The Brothers, by Frederick Barthelme.
New York Times Book Review (10 October 1993): 15.
- Carroll, Mary. Rev. of The Brothers. Booklist 90
(15 September 1993): 125.
- De Haven, Tom. Drive,
She Said. Rev. of Painted Desert. New York Times
Book Review (24 September 1995).
- Dodd, Susan M. Alex
Believes in Communicating. Rev. of Tracer. New
York Times Book Review (11 August 1985): 7.
- Dyer, Geoff. Rev. of Second Marriage. New Statesman
110 (2 August 1985): 28.
- Hempel, Amy. A
Hard Life for the Non-Poor. Rev. of Natural Selection.
New York Times Book Review (19 August 1990): 13.
- Harvey, Miles. Books:
Vengeance and Cactus. Rev. of Painted Desert. Outside
- Kakutani, Michiko. Books
of The Times; Beyond Generic in Junk-Food Land. Review
of The Brothers, by Frederick Barthelme. New York Times
(12 October 1993).
- Kaufmann, James. Brand-Name Blues. Rev. of Tracer,
by Frederick Barthelme. Washington Post Book World (28 July
- Kaveney, Roz. Rev. of Second Marriage. The Times Literary
Supplement (20 September 1985): 1028.
- ---. Rev. of Tracer. The Times Literary Supplement
(21 March 1986): 307.
- Loewinsohn, Ron. Looking for Love After Marriage.
Rev. of Second Marriage, by Frederick Barthelme. New York
Times Book Review (30 Sep. 1984): 1, 43.
- Loves Labor Lost. Rev. of Second Marriage,
by Frederick Barthelme. Newsweek (1 Oct. 1984): 87-88.
- MacFarlane, David. Adrift in a Modern Dream. Rev.
of Moon Deluxe, by Frederick Barthelme. MacLeans
(8 Aug. 1983): 51.
- Moore, Michael, Scott. Oh
Fortuna. Review of Bob the Gambler, by Frederick
Barthelme. Boston Book Review (1 December 1997).
- Percesepe, Gary. Rev. of The Brothers. Antioch Review
52 (Spring 1994): 369.
- Pesetsky, Bette. Rites
of Shopping. Rev. of Chroma, by Frederick Barthelme.
New York Times Book Review (3 May 1987): 12.
- Peters, Timothy. The Eighties Pastoral: Frederick Barthelmes
Moon Deluxe Ten Years On. Studies in Short Fiction
31.2 (Spring 1994): 175-95.
- Prado, Holly. Rev. of Tracer, by Frederick Barthelme. Los
Angeles Times Book Review(6 Oct. 1985): 14.
- Prose, Francine. Each
Man Hates the Women He Loves. Rev. of Two Against One,
by Frederick Barthelme. New York Times Book Review (13 November
- Scott, A.O. Security
Risk. Review of Bob the Gambler, by Frederick Barthelme.
New York Times Book Review (12 October 1997).
- St. John, Edward B. Review of The Brothers. Library
Journal 118 (August 1993): 144.
- Williams, Joan. All the Lonely People. Rev. of Moon
Deluxe, by Frederick Barthelme. Washington Post Book World
(28 Aug. 1983): 9.
- Wing, Jeff. Another
Roadside Distraction. Boston Book Review (1 December
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