The Friday Book

The Friday Book

John Barth

Language: English

Pages: 281

ISBN: 0399129979

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Whether discussing modernism, postmodernism, semiotics, Homer, Cervantes, Borges, blue crabs or osprey nests, Barth demonstrates an enthusiasm for the life of the mind, a joy in thinking (and in expressing those thoughts) that becomes contagious... A reader leaves The Friday Book feeling intellectually fuller, verbally more adept, mentally stimulated, with algebra and fire of his own."--Washington Post

Barth's first work of nonfiction is what he calls "an arrangement of essays and occasional lectures, some previously published, most not, most on matters literary, some not, accumulated over thirty years or so of writing, teaching, and teaching writing." With the full measure of playfulness and erudition that he brings to his novels, Barth glances into his crystal ball to speculate on the future of literature and the literature of the future. He also looks back upon historical fiction and fictitious history and discusses prose, poetry, and all manner of letters: "Real letters, forged letters, doctored letters... and of course alphabetical letters, the atoms of which the universe of print is made."

"The pieces brought together in The Friday Book reflect Mr. Barth's witty, playful, and engaging personality... They are lively, sometimes casual, and often whimsical--a delight to the reader, to whom Mr. Barth seems to be writing or speaking as a learned friend."--Kansas City Star

"No less than Barth's fiction these pieces are performances, agile, dexterous, robust, offering the cerebral delights of playful lucidity."--Richmond News Leader





















write an introductory essay (published as an afterword in the format for that series) to their edition of Tobias Smollett's 1748 novel Roderick Random*, they innocently assumed me to be something of an eighteenth-century specialist. I responded that I had in fact neither read anything at all of Smollett's nor ever written a literary essay. They responded, in effect, Why not try both? I did. * New York: Signet Books, 1964. Rereading the result twenty years later, I hear what we call the

Rodrigo," married against his father's will, and while old Sir James Smollett stopped short of disowning young Archibald, he limited his bounty to the tenancy of Dalquhurn, the little farm where Tobias was born and where Archibald died two years after siring him. Biographers remind us that there's no factual evidence either to support or to refute the common assumption that Smollett's childhood was as bitter as Roderick's; the ferocious tone of those first five chapters rings awfully true,

remarked to the Duke of Weimar: that refusing a distinction can be as immodest as chasing after it. Speaking as a Master of Arts in the field of Innocence, I suspect that when it is artificially preserved it sours into arrested development, and that what began as healthy privacy congeals into reclusive crankhood. This is the Tragic View of Recognition. For these reasons, it is especially pleasing to share literary honors with Eudora Welty, who has preserved her balance nicely on the line

Sanskrit grammar could not in fact be taught in six months at that time, Gunadhya is full of confidence. But Sarvavarman, alarmed at his own impulsiveness, petitions the gods for help, and for reasons never disclosed they reveal to him a revolutionary new concise Sanskrit grammar, the Katantra, which wins him the bet and reforms subsequent education. Reduced to silence, Gunadhya takes to the woods with a pair of his favorite students. After an unspecified wordless interval, he comes across

Odyssey that "wars are fought so that poets will have something to sing about" -- with the clear implication that the songs are finally more important than the wars which are their ostensible subject. Most fiction about a place and time never rises above that place and time. When real artists such as Faulkner or Singer or Mark Twain or Nathaniel Hawthorne or Homer happen to find inspiration in a particular region or period, it is likely to be because they find in that region or period a symbol of

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