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Book Title: On with the Story|
The author of the book: John Barth
Edition: Back Bay Books
Date of issue: June 1st 1997
ISBN 13: 9780316083591
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 15.19 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.1
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Using the venerable literary device of the bedtime story, which links fictions as different as The Arabian Nights and Charlotte's Web, John Barth ingeniously interweaves stories from an ongoing, high-spirited but deadly serious nocturnal game of tale-telling by a more or less desperate loving couple vacationing at their "last resort". As Scheherazade spun out her bedtime stories to save her life, the narrator of On with the Story spins out his to postpone The End, and to explore en route - wittily, mournfully, tenderly - love in modern life and postmodern literature. As the narrative cycles through the lifescapes of his subjects' stories, Barth affords a view both panoramic and microscopic of our own landscape. With eye and pen both sharp and beautiful he depicts love ranging from the obsessively puppy through the sophisticatedly fatigued, the delusionally murderous, even the quantum-physical, to the superbly fulfilled.
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Read information about the authorJohn Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.
John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied "Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration" at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952 (for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus).
He was a professor at Penn State University (1953-1965), SUNY Buffalo (1965-1973), Boston University (visiting professor, 1972-1973), and Johns Hopkins University (1973-1995) before he retired in 1995.
Barth began his career with The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, two short novels that deal wittily with controversial topics, suicide and abortion respectively. They are straightforward tales; as Barth later remarked, they "didn't know they were novels."
The Sot-Weed Factor, Barth's next novel, is an 800-page mock epic of the colonization of Maryland based on the life of an actual poet, Ebenezer Cooke, who wrote a poem of the same title. The Sot-Weed Factor is what Northrop Frye called an anatomy — a large, loosely structured work, with digressions, distractions, stories within stories, and lists (such as a lengthy exchange of insulting terms by two prostitutes). The fictional Ebenezer Cooke (repeatedly described as "poet and virgin") is a Candide-like innocent who sets out to write a heroic epic, becomes disillusioned and ends up writing a biting satire.
Barth's next novel, Giles Goat-Boy, of comparable size, is a speculative fiction based on the conceit of the university as universe. A half-man, half-goat discovers his humanity and becomes a savior in a story presented as a computer tape given to Barth, who denies that it is his work. In the course of the novel Giles carries out all the tasks prescribed by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Barth kept a list of the tasks taped to his wall while he was writing the book.
The short story collection Lost in the Funhouse and the novella collection Chimera are even more metafictional than their two predecessors, foregrounding the writing process and presenting achievements such as seven nested quotations. In LETTERS Barth and the characters of his first six books interact.
While writing these books, Barth was also pondering and discussing the theoretical problems of fiction writing, most notably in an essay, "The Literature of Exhaustion" (first printed in the Atlantic, 1967), that was widely considered to be a statement of "the death of the novel" (compare with Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author"). Barth has since insisted that he was merely making clear that a particular stage in history was passing, and pointing to possible directions from there. He later (1979) wrote a follow-up essay, "The Literature of Replenishment," to clarify the point.
Barth's fiction continues to maintain a precarious balance between postmodern self-consciousness and wordplay on the one hand, and the sympathetic characterisation and "page-turning" plotting commonly associated with more traditional genres and subgenres of classic and contemporary storytelling.
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