Donald Barthelme was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, when he was two years old, his family moved to Houston, Texas. His father was an architect of 'modern' school of Mies van der Rohe -"something of an anomaly in Texas in the thirties," Barthelme observed. He studied at the University of Houston, and then wrote articles on culture and art for the Houston Post. He was, briefly, Director of Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, writing what he called "hack" pieces on the side. In 1962, he moved to New York City to take up writing full time and began publishing stories in The New Yorker. He was married twice and divorced twice, and had one daughter. The problems of married life and fatherhood permeate his stories.
Barthelme authored fourteen books, including novels, essays and the short story collections, Forty Stories , Overnight to Many Distant Cities , Sixty Stories , City Life , Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts , and Come Back, Dr. Caligari .
His awards included a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award and the National Book Award. He was also a member of the National Institutes of Arts and Letters and a professor of English and a member of the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Houston. Donald Barthelme died in July 1989.
The 1988 Rea Award Jurors Benjamin DeMott, Bill Henderson, and Cynthia Ozick cited Barthelme's achievements:
"Mockery and exaltation regularly co-habit in Donald Barthelme's stories. The voice of pop sings in sweet mysterious harmony with the voice of traditional philosophical and literary culture, and at moments intuitions of beatitude intrude suddenly on the excruciations of urban life. No richer -- or funnier -- discourse exists in contemporary fiction."