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11/23/2004

Comments

Hapax Legomenon

Funny, Giles-goat boy was on my short list of things to read. Nice coincidence.

Lost in the Funhouse probably was innovative, but a little smartalecky and clever for my taste.

It's fair to classify Barth not with the existentialists or postmodernists, but with the picaresque/faulation tradition. Rabelais, Boccaccio, 1001 Nights, etc.

The problem with Barth is that he tried to be cleverly postmodern and also a storyteller in the grand tradition. Therefore, these novels of his are too hard to read for the general reader to enjoy and a little too fun-loving for the intellectual (See Chimera). I've only read portions of his later stuff and haven't found them particularly engrossing.

On the other hand, those forgotten works of his middle years probably deserve another look.

One reason why Barth may have fallen out of fashion is that American novels have focused on the personal, the everyday, the intimate, and so have literary tastes.

I have to wonder why there aren't audio books on this writer (there's a 2 cassette condensation of Somebody the Sailor). This is the sort of fiction that would sound great inside a car.

Hapax Legomenon

Sorry, one other thing. Barth wrote several entertaining "state of literature" essays for New york times. Here's one of my favorites: http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/06/21/specials/barth-writing.html

Mr. Waggish

I think of Jan Potocki's "The Manuscript Found at Saragossa" as the ultimate Barth ur-text, moreso than Sterne, because it has more traditional, linear, folklorish stories injected into narratological headaches.

I feel the most affection for Barth's first two books; they are the only two I warmed to. After that, the quote about "traditional rebellion" is a good one. I sense that he wrote the books that he thought people would want to study, and wrote books that would be useful--not self-defeating--to those who studied them. I think he was successful, particularly with Lost in the Funhouse. Anecdotally, Barth seems to have supplanted Beckett in many literary theory circles. Barth gave people a lot more to chew on than did, e.g., Gysin and Burroughs in their cut-ups.

Trent Walters

What's wrong with clever? People use it as a dirty word, a criminal literary act, and neglect to show why it's so horrid a thing.

Dan Green

I don't think I would say that Barth wrote books that people would want to "study." He wrote books that could be studied, but that could be fun to read as well. I would echo the earlier comment that he loved both experiment and storytelling. He loved storytelling so much, in fact, that he couldn't resist making it his primary subject.

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