Donald Barthelme And "The Balloon": Post-Modernism At Its Peak

Donald Barthelme And "The Balloon": Post-Modernism At Its Peak

Why "The Balloon" is the strangest yet most intriguing short story of the post world war II era.
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Donald Barthelme was one of the most well known post-modernists of his time. In 1961, Barthelme became director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; he published his first short story the same year. His New Yorker publication, "L'Lapse," a parody of Michelangelo Antonioni's film "L'Eclisse" ("The Eclipse"), followed in 1963. The magazine would go on to publish much of Barthelme's early output, including such now-famous stories as "Me and Miss Mandible," the tale of a 35-year-old sent to elementary school by either a clerical error, failing at his job as an insurance adjuster, and failing in his marriage.

Written in October 1960, it was the first of his stories to be published. "A Shower of Gold," another early short story, portrays a sculptor who agrees to appear on the existentialist game show "Who Am I?" In 1964, Barthelme collected his early stories in "Come Back, Dr. Caligari," for which he received considerable critical acclaim as an innovator of the short story form. His style – fictional and popular figures in absurd situations, e.g., the Batman-inspired "The Joker's Greatest Triumph" – spawned a number of imitators and would help to define the next several decades of short fiction.

Barthelme continued his success in the short story form with "Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts" (1968). One widely anthologized story from this collection, "The Balloon," appears to reflect on Barthelme's intentions as an artist. The narrator inflates a giant, irregular balloon over most of Manhattan, causing widely divergent reactions in the populace. Children play across its top, enjoying it literally on a surface level; adults attempt to read meaning into it but are baffled by its ever-changing shape; the authorities attempt to destroy it but fail.

In the final paragraph, the reader learns that the narrator has inflated the balloon for purely personal reasons, and he sees no intrinsic meaning in the balloon itself, a metaphor for the amorphous, uncertain nature of Barthelme's fiction.

The emotion portrayed in "The Balloon" was quite intriguing. As I was reading it, a thought came to mind: I had completely no clue about the purpose of this balloon. There were negative and positive reactions to this balloon. This balloon was massive, covering “forty-five blocks north and south and six crosstown blocks on either side of the Avenue.”

It was also irregularly shaped, which is why the responses are mixed. Children would jump on the balloon from atop buildings, others would write messages on lanterns and send them up to be hung on to the balloon. Some were “timid” and had a “lack of trust” in what was seen.

But what I realized is that under that random large balloon, we seem to find OURSELVES. We question it, some find it fun, some find it a useful tool.

Now, the real purpose for that balloon was the author’s lack of a love partner since there was no other way to show that other than to blow up a goddamn balloon spread 44 blocks long over Manhattan. However, it became a much deeper meaning to most of the citizens.

Barthelme's famous short story can be read here.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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9 Reasons Crocs Are The Only Shoes You Need

Crocs have holes so your swag can breathe.
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Do you have fond childhood objects that make you nostalgic just thinking about your favorite Barbie or sequenced purse? Well for me, its my navy Crocs. Those shoes put me through elementary school. I eventually wore them out so much that I had to say goodbye. I tried Airwalks and sandals, but nothing compared. Then on my senior trip in New York City, a four story Crocs store gleamed at me from across the street and I bought another pair of Navy Blue Crocs. The rest is history. I wear them every morning to the lake for practice and then throughout the day to help air out my soaking feet. I love my Crocs so much, that I was in shock when it became apparent to me that people don't feel the same. Here are nine reasons why you should just throw out all of your other shoes and settle on Crocs.

1. They are waterproof.

These bad boys can take on the wettest of water. Nobody is sure what they are made of, though. The debate is still out there on foam vs. rubber. You can wear these bad boys any place water may or may not be: to the lake for practice or to the club where all the thirsty boys are. But honestly who cares because they're buoyant and water proof. Raise the roof.


2. Your most reliable support system

There is a reason nurses and swimming instructors alike swear by Crocs. Comfort. Croc's clogs will make you feel like your are walking on a cloud of Laffy Taffy. They are wide enough that your toes are not squished, and the rubbery material forms perfectly around your foot. Added bonus: The holes let in a nice breeze while riding around on your Razor Scooter.

3. Insane durability

Have you ever been so angry you could throw a Croc 'cause same? Have you ever had a Croc bitten while wrestling a great white shark? Me too. Have you ever had your entire foot rolled like a fruit roll up but had your Crocs still intact? Also me. All I know is that Seal Team 6 may or may not have worn these shoes to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Just sayin'.


4. Bling, bling, bling

Jibbitz, am I right?! These are basically they're own money in the industry of comfortable footwear. From Spongebob to Christmas to your favorite fossil, Jibbitz has it all. There's nothing more swag-tastic than pimped out crocs. Lady. Killer.

5. So many options

From the classic clog to fashionable sneakers, Crocs offer so many options that are just too good to pass up on. They have fur lined boots, wedges, sandals, loafers, Maryjane's, glow in the dark, Minion themed, and best of all, CAMO! Where did your feet go?!

6. Affordable

Crocs: $30

Feeling like a boss: Priceless

7. Two words: Adventure Straps

Because you know that when you move the strap from casual mode chillin' in the front to behind the heal, it's like using a shell on Mario Cart.

8. Crocs cares

Okay, but for real, Crocs is a great company because they have donated over 3 million pairs of crocs to people in need around the world. Move over Toms, the Croc is in the house.

9. Stylish AF

The boys will be coming for you like Steve Irwin.

Who cares what the haters say, right? Wear with pride, and go forth in style.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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11 Songs That I Haven't Been Able To Get Out Of My Head, And You Won't, Either

Finals is coming and these are the songs I keep on repeat.

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1. "Goodbye Again" by Vertical Horizon

2. "Slip The Noose" by The Maine

3. "Cool" by The Jonas Brothers

4. "Broken Horse" by Freelance Whales

5. "Street Map" by Athlete

6. "All Eternal Things" by Trembling Blue Stars

7. "Don't Cry" by Emarosa

8. "Turn My Back" by Mayday Parade

9. "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot

10. "It's Tricky" by Run DMC

11. "Kiss Quick" by Matt Nathanson

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