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The Tidewater Tales

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  349 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
"Tell me a story..." Katherine Shorter Sherritt Sagamore, 8 1/2 months pregnant, is a blue-blooded library scientist and founding mother of the American Society for the Preservation of Storytelling. Her husband Peter, 8 1/2 months nervous, is a blue-collar storyteller with a penchant for brevity. Sailing in the Chesapeake Bay, they tell each other tales to break the writer ...more
Paperback, 655 pages
Published February 15th 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 698)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
“Show, don’t tell.” But what if you are a story teller? And are there not better media for showing? What does this little mantra, or such nuggets as “Write what you know” (was it McElroy or Barthelme who said “Write what you don’t know”?), prescribe? May I suggest that it prescribes only a single narrow possibility of narrative construction, and perhaps even prescribes a non-narrative, painterly novel writing; that when narrative comes along we no longer in fact “show” but we tell tell tell! Tel ...more
Ben Winch
This was going great until about halfway, when with CIA subplot stymied it descended ever further toward the absolute epitome of what, to me, is lame in metafiction – all those cardboard, cute Scheherazade and Don Quixote stories, and a neat deux ex machina resolution that felt like betrayal after so long a wait. Admittedly there were warning signs: the abysmal “Sex Education: Act I”, for eg, nearly stopped me in my tracks, though I forced myself to read it imagining it might have some relevance ...more
Feb 03, 2009 Philipp rated it did not like it
Hey, tearing a book apart is fun. This book is alluring, clever and full of sophistication. And it's a horrible book. The pretext of "Tide-water tales" is that reading the "right" books makes the difference between good and bad, beautiful and ugly, worthy and unworthy people. And don't get me wrong, I am all for reading books, I love reading. But lightning shall strike me the day I sniff at people because they don't read the "right" books or do not read at all.

In this waste of paper and ink, the
Vit Babenco
Jul 09, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tidewater Tales is John Barth’s nautical novel but his ship sails so slow as though there is a dead calm.
“There are two bombs aboard… Much gets discussed, and little or nothing gets done, with excellent reason. The twin bombs don’t go off… and the passengers and crew go home and eat and drink and breathe some more. Over the years, they get cancers and have heart attacks and give birth to defective children.”
The author’s voyage is a kind of quixotic journey and when two souls are lost in the sea
Mar 12, 2016 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange one. Simultaneously loose and tight in structure, it works as a sort-of-sequel to Barth's previous novel Sabbatical: A Romance. But where that one gets surprisingly tense and dark in places, this is a much more leisurely told story, with side-trips into what reads like outtakes and further development of themes and stories from Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera. Nothing new here, and Barth is as always a master in making new variations on previous texts.

It's with the sort-of-se
Christopher Sutch
Barth's most optimistic, creative, life-affirming novel, a rarity in postmodern fiction. One of my favorites.
May 25, 2009 Amy rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amy by: Rough Guide to Cult Fiction
Shelves: cult-fiction
While this book wasn't terrible, it did make me cringe multiple times. It's too clever for its own good, and the ending nearly made me crazy with all of the tidy wrapping up of characters.

This is a story about literally giving birth (to babies) and to birthing or creating stories. Kath and Peter are married, nearly 40, and expecting twins. Kath is 8.5 months pregnant at the outset and every reader knows that the entire story will end once she delivers. Peter is a writer that has been suffering f
Jonathan Rimorin
Feb 25, 2015 Jonathan Rimorin rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was 17; I was going through a kind of a kick, from García Marquez to Grass to Rushdie to "Chimera" and "Giles Goat-Boy" and this. I remember loving it; I remember thinking that it was chock-full of genuine affection and actual love. I still have the copy of "Tidewater Tales" I had read back in 1987, but I'm afraid of how yellowed its pages and emotions may have become over the intervening years. I loved this book so much that I wrote a fan letter to John Barth (though tha ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Anne rated it liked it
I used to read this book every summer while vacationing on Chincoteague Island. I loved it. Gradually, though, it seemed a little too precious for me, and I found myself skipping large sections. I guess I outgrew it.
Mike Gilbert
I wavered on this book - between three and four stars. Its is wonderfully written - perhaps the only book I have read strictly from the consciousness of a married couple. And they are one of those couples who complete each others sentences, thoughts, and of course, stories. The prose is fast and loose and makes you believe you are one of their inner circle as KSS and Peter "less is more" Sagamore sail on Story around the Chesapeake telling tales to their unborn twins and meeting up with three of ...more
Jan 14, 2013 Kate rated it it was amazing
An absolute feast of language and literary allusion.
May 08, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
Another fun Barthian tome, telling the story of a husband-wife team (the husband a middle-class, mildly famous writer and the wife a pregnant oral historian from an upper-class background) as they sail along the Chesapeake Bay to address writer's block and get away from the impending changes to be wrought by late-term pregnancy. As they sail, we meet their extended family and friends, engage with mysterious and unusual characters, and hear an array of stories about their lives and the political, ...more
I finally put this book down with 450 pages read and 200 left, which is not something I ever do. It definitely lost its way somewhere.
Mar 06, 2015 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I am rereading the first one hundred pages over and over trying to make some sense out of convoluted sentences and ideas. I almost get it,but not clearly. Names change at will, so I am not always sure who is doing what but one thing I do understand and that is the geography. Thank heavens for that.
Aug 20, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing
I'd have given this one six, or maybe ten stars - out of 5 - if possbile. It's definitely not for the passive or distracted reader, and sometimes required re-reading sentences or paragraphs even while paying attention. I've read a number of really good books - more that I've listed here - but none better.
Dec 29, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. Odysseus, Scheherezade, Don Quixote all make surreal visits, the Cold War and toxicity loom overhead. Wordplay on the Pynchon level, the CIA lurks around, and even a screenplay inside a vagina.
May 26, 2012 Tara marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
5/26/12 - Went to a few yardsales with mom & Kristina today. Got this one & some others. I'm going to give this book a try too. I'm not sure if I will like it, but I'll give it a shot! It sounds interesting.
Jul 07, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing
I had this on my "to-read" shelf but I had read it. Great story with great characters. Fairly long and totally worth it (also see the Sotweed Factor).
Oct 25, 2008 Sean rated it it was ok
I had high hopes with the premise of the book, but was disappointed to find a rambling book that seemed to be an experiment in writing.
Sherelyn Ernst
Sep 08, 2015 Sherelyn Ernst rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I quit this ages ago but am tired of its showing up as current. I did not like it and did not finish it.
Joe Allen
Jul 31, 2012 Joe Allen rated it really liked it
Interesting ode to Chesapeake Bay but intellectually pretentious. Good read but many pages to skip over.
Walter Straus
Feb 09, 2011 Walter Straus rated it did not like it
Too tedious for me. At risk of being called a chauvinist, it is a book best for females.
Aug 04, 2016 Emma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roadtrip
can you believe i've finally finished this book??? (long live maryland)
Aug 24, 2011 Tony marked it as to-read
Started this ten years ago - still reading...
Dec 29, 2012 Lysergius rated it really liked it
A follow on from Sabbatical. Excellent.
Jun 21, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
barth's most engaging novel.
Nov 09, 2011 Milt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bradford Alban
Bradford Alban marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2016
Tp marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2016
David marked it as to-read
Aug 06, 2016
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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).
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