Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

If a conventional label need be applied to “The Glass Mountain,” “fable” works best. Actually, the text merges fable, fantasy, and grotesque fairy tale—which is unsurprising, as collage was Barthelme’s favorite creative principle. He said, “The point of collage is that unlike things are stuck together to make, in the best case, a new reality.” The writer demonstrates this principle in the story, defiantly tying the mere “signs” of today’s society to “sacred” symbols of literature and watching them fly together as a new reality.

Presented in numbered paragraphs composed of simple sentences, the clarity of the prose draws readers in. So clear are its statements that some time passes before readers realize that although such events might happen, they cannot happen on a glass mountainside. Likewise, the story’s events can be clearly plotted in a conventional pattern, almost to the end, but those events, themselves, remain unconventional.

Like collage, these unconventional aspects typify Barthelme’s postmodern style. In merging “new realities,” this fiction about itself comments on the plight and promise of literature. It helps to examine sophisticated fiction as an effective sample of postmodern work. “The Glass Mountain” appears to be a somewhat odd but fairly ordinary, story until the moment a climbing iron clangs. Then glass shatters and a plunger comes unstuck and it is clear that the story is anything but conventional.

The Glass Mountain Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Barthelme, Helen Moore. Donald Barthelme: The Genesis of a Cool Sound. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001.

Gordon, Lois. Donald Barthelme. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

Hudgens, Michael Thomas. Donald Barthelme: Postmodernist American Writer. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001.

Klinkowitz, Jerome. Donald Barthelme: An Exhibition. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991.

McCaffery, Larry. The Metafictional Muse: The Works of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, and William H. Gass. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982.

Molesworth, Charles. Donald Barthelme’s Fiction: The Ironist Saved from Drowning. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1982.

Olsen, Lance, ed. Review of Contemporary Fiction 11 (Summer, 1991).

Patteson, Richard F., ed. Critical Essays on Donald Barthelme. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Roe, Barbara L. Donald Barthelme: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Stengel, Wayne B. The Shape of Art in the Short Stories of Donald Barthelme. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985.

Trachtenberg, Stanley. Understanding Donald Barthelme. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Waxman, Robert. “Apollo and Dionysus: Donald Barthelme’s Dance of Life.” Studies in Short Fiction 33 (Spring, 1996): 229-243.