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
Tom LeClair describes
Steve Barthelmes 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
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
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
- 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.
- Internet Resources
- Personal and Professional:
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