Short Story: Barthelme's Balloon and the Rhizome

Peter Childs

in Texts

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780748620432
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671700 | DOI:
Short Story: Barthelme's Balloon and the Rhizome

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The short story is unfairly named. Shortness is only a quality in relation to something else, and so this epithet ‘short’ epitomises the way in which the novel has been taken as the standard for modern fiction. Such bias was long ago lampooned by Ambrose Bierce in his 1911 satirical compendium The Devil’s Dictionary: ‘Novel: A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before.’ If Barthelme were familiar with this definition it might be argued that his story’s expanding balloon, which sacrifices unity for a sprawling quality, is a comment on the novel’s relation to the short story form that Barthelme specialised in and excelled at.

Keywords: Deleuzian Criticism; Donald Barthelme; ‘The Balloon’; the short story

Chapter.  4461 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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