John Barth's lively, highly original collection of short pieces is a major landmark of experimental fiction. Though many of the stories gathered here were published separately, there are several themes common to them all, giving them new meaning in the context of this collection.
©1968 John Barth (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
Exploratory Avant-garde fiction
It is an exploration of new directions that fiction has taken since 1960 by a master of the short story form. Starting with a "first-person" story about a spermatozoan's travel during the course of conception, wending its way through stories which are set in the past yet include present and future, simultaneous alternate narratives that are linked yet disparate, stories that include formal commentaries on themselves, this genre-busting, form-twisting collection/novel answered a criticism of the time that fiction was nearly exhausted, and paved a road that modern writing would take up to the present day. Other than that, it was pretty good.
The stories that made formal comments about themselves, such as first declaiming an action or dialogue, then pointing out how such passages 'should' act in a work of fiction, or where they belonged in a plot structure.
No - it ws too intense, and required a significant amount of thinking before and during each story.
I later found a good (and free) commentary on the work by Yale's Amy Hungerford in her course "The American Novel Since 1945," down-loadable as an mp3 or transcript from Open Yale Courses. Barth was one of her professors at Johns Hopkins. Like Joyce's 'Finnegan's Wake,' someone needed to write this, but no one should attempt it again.
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