Monday, December 16, 2013

"The Balloon" A short story by Donald Barthelme

This particular story by Donald Barthelme is a perfect example of the power of the written word. How a writer, in just a few pages, can provide a completely fantastic setting, make it sound true, leave you guessing until the end, play games with your mind. From the first sentence, you are presented with an absurd situation. A balloon is expanding in fairytale proportions covering a whole city under it. The writer seems to be in control of this balloon "installation" as much as he is in control of this short story. We are left in the dark as to the meaning of this phenomenon. What we have throughout the story are the technicalities and the reactions of the people of the city to the balloon. The idea brings to my mind the art installations of Christo and Jeanne-Claude where whole buildings are wrapped and presented in their naked form or mass as a pure object. In the story, the writer is very careful not to say more than is needed and you are left wondering, as the story goes on, where and especially how it will all end. I will not spoil the story by giving its conclusion. Suffice it to say that the writing of Donald Barthelme, this master of the short story, should be rediscovered and reassessed.    

Read the story here... (pdf link)

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