Letters: A Novel

Letters A Novel A landmark of postmodern American fiction Letters is as the subtitle genially informs us an old time epistolary novel by seven fictitious drolls dreamers each of which imagines himself factual Seven

  • Title: Letters: A Novel
  • Author: John Barth
  • ISBN: 9780399124259
  • Page: 164
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A landmark of postmodern American fiction, Letters is as the subtitle genially informs us an old time epistolary novel by seven fictitious drolls dreamers each of which imagines himself factual Seven characters including the Author himself exchange a novel s worth of letters during a 7 month period in 1969, a time of revolution that recalls the U.S s first reA landmark of postmodern American fiction, Letters is as the subtitle genially informs us an old time epistolary novel by seven fictitious drolls dreamers each of which imagines himself factual Seven characters including the Author himself exchange a novel s worth of letters during a 7 month period in 1969, a time of revolution that recalls the U.S s first revolution in the 18th century the heyday of the epistolary novel Recapitulating American history as well as the plots of his first six novels, Barth s seventh novel is a witty and profound exploration of the nature of revolution and renewal, rebellion and reenactment, at both the private and public levels It is also an ingenious meditation on the genre of the novel itself, recycling an older form to explore new directions, new possibilities for the novel.

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    About "John Barth"

    1. John Barth

      John 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 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 traditional genres and subgenres of classic and contemporary storytelling.

    575 thoughts on “Letters: A Novel”

    1. Sot-Weed and Giles are both really excellent and simply boat=loads of fun. But could you imagine if The Recognitions or Gravity's Rainbow had only 158 ratings & 9 reviews ; you'd be stumbling around bruising yourself in total discombobulation of incredulity. So is the case with LETTERS: An Old Time Epistolary Novel By Seven Fictitious Drolls & Dreamers Each of Which Imagines Himself Factual. (view spoiler)[(see page 769 for an explication of the subtitle)(hide spoiler)]Also, it's another [...]


    2. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I remember how excited I was when Letters was published in '79, I was a longtime Barth admirer and looked forward to it. However, I couldn't even understand the reviews. Puzzled by what critics had to say about Letters, I was intimidated and didn't attempt it for several years. As it turned out, I had no trouble with it; I liked it immensely and was very much impressed by what Barth had done. After all these years I'm still impressed and think it one of the great [...]


    3. This has been my first Barth, so I didn't really know what to expect - and definitely didn't expect the book to be as absolutely gorgeous as this. With the fear of making the novel sound bland, I don't know when I've last read a book so joyful and filled with love of life, the world and not least writing. And bland the book never is, quite the opposite, sharply intelligent and playfully mischievous in the way the central themes (very broadly speaking - the novel is dense with plot!) of revolutio [...]


    4. Dear John, Your "interminable masterpiece" has been perused with undaunted relish. My especial thanks to you for preserving as much of the difficulty of authorship as possible for the readership: unblemished exquisiteness comes only with patience, labor, and suffering. Every concession to ease falsifies the claims of the result. Out of respect for our intelligence, you didn't dumb it down. By soliciting us to draw ever closer to what we could be you refused to cater to the narcissistic malformat [...]


    5. An epistolary novel – long gone days of yore – not at all if the quill is in John Barth’s hand who can boldly turn any dubious fable into a postmodernistic tour de force. “Yet, as a connoisseur of paradoxes, he understands to the bone that one of St. Augustine's concerning time: that while the Present does not exist (it being the merely conceptual razor's edge between the Past and the Future), at the same time it's all there is: the Everlasting Now between a Past existing only in memory [...]


    6. With magisterial swagger and invention, this novel takes on all of American history. In particular, it considers the little-known "second Revolution," the War of 1812, while also embracing an immigrant story of the mid-20th Century, and spending a lot of time among the Further freaks of the 1960s. Yet for all its human drama, LETTERS may bedazzle more with its formal innovation. This is the only novel I know that bases its form on the alphabet -- and brings off, nonetheless, a richly peopled and [...]



    7. Look: I'm not gonna deny that this book is brilliant and enthralling, notwithstanding my non-love of the author's handling of gender relations. But I feel like everyone else is too scared to admit what we all know to be true--the blank in the ointment, if you will: that all the historic A.B. Cook stuff is just coma-inducingly boring. I mean, really. Let's just acknowledge that. We'll feel better.


    8. I love Barth. This is a novel only Barth lovers would love, yet I did not love it. I admired itbut I did not love it.


    9. One of the great things about this book is that Barth is able to tap into the ethos of all his included earlier works. It becomes almost a burden if you are familiar with the characters already, for it makes the reading experience one of constant nostalgia. The fresh reader will not have that problem, though I'm sure it adds to the epistolary experience as one connecting with characters you already "know." That being said, Barth takes on a huge role in this novel. Though I disagree with many of [...]


    10. Currently unfinished. Abandoned at about 400 pages, not because I wasn't enjoying it, not because it was difficult (far from it, it's just long and digressive). A mixture of MA work and other reading has simply taken precedent, and the decision to not write about it in my dissertation means I have slightly more productive things to be reading right now.To return to some day.


    11. Barth is obviously a genius on many levels; foremost as a story-teller. Here he brings characters from his previous novels back to life in a series of letters where they interact. Challenging and VERY funny.




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