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* Book Info:
Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss
(May 2001)
Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss
(November 1999)
* Writer News :
Barthelme brothers indicted for cheating at blackjack
(7 March 1998)
Cheating charges dropped against Barthelme brothers
(10 August 1999)

Home:  >Browse Listings   >Authors   >Barthelme, Steve

Steve Barthelme

Steve Barthelme is best known as the author of the short story collection And He Tells The Little Horse The Whole Story, and as the brother of Donald and Frederick, both of whom are also well known writers.

Like his brothers, Steve is a Texan by birth. He was born in Houston on July 7, 1947, the son of an architect (his father) and a school teacher (his mother). He attended Boston College in 1965-66, then the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a B.A. in 1972. After graduating, he worked as a Review Editor for The Texas Observer in Austin and then as a copywriter for various advertising agencies in Austin and Houston.

In 1984, he earned an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, the same school his brother Frederick was graduated from seven years before. He used this graduate degree to get a job as an instructor at Northeast Louisiana University, Monroe, and then in 1986, to become an associate professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where his brother Frederick also teaches.

Tom LeClair describes Steve Barthelme’s work as largely minimalist, in the tradition of Carver and inspired by Chekhov, yet as another reviewer notes, unique enough that it does not seem reminiscent of either of his brothers’ works.

His collection of stories, And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story, recounts a string of adulteries from differing points of view. It is largely pessimistic and darkly humorous but with an absurdity that reduces the collection’s gloom. LeClair says that the stories are “about what we don’t, won’t, and can’t say.” The characters are speakers and listeners who almost never change roles. Most of them are middle-class whites in theit thirties, drifting in and out of love. Half of the stories occur inside automobiles.

As for Barthelme’s style, it is made up of short, choppy sentences with few metaphors. The stories in the first collection are very short. None are over fourteen pages. They are closer to vignettes, notes Jim Spencer in his review, than to stories with long rambling plots.

The title of the collection derives from a Chekhov story entitled “Lament” or “Grief,” depending on the translation. In the story, a poor cabdriver, whose son has died and who lacks an audience to speak to, tells his story to his horse. The title’s origin suggests something about the voices in the Barthelme’s collection. Two of the stories, in fact, are outright laments themselves: “Stoner’s Lament” and “Black Jack.”

Barthelme has won several awards for his fiction, including several PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards and a Pushcart Prize in 1993. He publishes widely in literary magazines, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and elsewhere.

Jon M. Davies

Related Links & Info


Web Edition


Fiction: Short Story Collections
  • And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.


  • (With Frederick Barthelme) Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.


Articles and Book Reviews:
  • LeClair, Tom. “Hi Starter, Hi Washer, Hi Lover, Hi Cat.” Rev. of And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story, by Steve Barthelme. New York Times Book Review (20 Dec. 1987): 8.
  • Locklin, Gerald. Rev. of And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story, by Steve Barthelme. Studies in Short Fiction 125.2 (1988): 160-61.
  • Spencer, Jim. “A Barthelme Brother Scouts Out His Niche.” Rev. of And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story, by Steve Barthelme. The Chicago Tribune (12 Jan. 1988): 5.3.

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