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Lost in the Funhouse

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  3,154 ratings  ·  187 reviews
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.
Paperback, 205 pages
Published March 1st 1988 by Anchor Books (first published 1968)
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Community Reviews

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Garima
Lost in the Funhouse started off on a positive note and acquired my attention due its various meta-fictional tricks, for which I’m a pretty soft target, but it was soon succumbed to those tricks only, which got a little out of hand for my personal taste . This is not a perfect series by any means and never meant to, especially with all those literary gymnastics, most of which ended in a nasty fall. I’m fairly receptive to all these experimental and post modern writings but in most of the cases I...more
Robert Farwell
Darwin ate (U) his mark.

(A.) Once upon a time there was a review that began: (B.) (view spoiler) Barth wrote a novel for himself. He wrote a novel to himself. He doesn't care about you. He is not writing for you. He is not going to make you eat your short fiction or even make you shoot the gun sitting on the fictional wall next to you.

Barth makes me sometimes regret my decision to not go to Johns Hopkins. What was I thinkin...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Lost In The Funhouse; Fiction For Print, Tape, Live Voice is John Barth's response to a gauntlet Marshall McLuhan was throwing down back in the heady days of the sixties regarding the immanent demise of the work of art as printed text and the subsequent decline in the fortunes of the Gutenberg family. Sound familiar? As it is his first collection of short fiction (anomalous), no matter one's response to the Funhouse, please do pick up one of his long works, the form in which his muse sings much...more
Paul
Two very brilliant stories and a whole kaboodle of indigestible bollocks. (Yes, I confess to skipping lightly and sprightly over the last three Greek-mythology-based items. What is it with this Greek tripe?) But like many a cd I have purchased, the two good ones were worth the price of entry. This collection is – it says here - a major landmark of experimental fiction. Well, as landmarks go, it was a bit of a Hadrian’s Wall.


Tourist : Where’s Hadrian’s wall?
Local inhabitant of the area: It’s righ...more
MJ Nicholls
Disappointing. This soi-disant landmark in experimental fiction was stuffed with endless exercises in indulgence, vague and rambling stories, pretentious non-sequiturs and assorted Greek gibberish. The title piece, ‘Title’ and ‘Petition’ were the only engaging and amusing stories here. Most of the collection indulges in Barth’s obsession with Victorian writing and Greek myth. ‘Night-Sea Journey,’ ‘Meneliad’ and ‘Anonymiad’ are insufferable, despite the clever tricks and (rare) flashes of wit. (T...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Lost in the Funhouse is a tough book to review, because it screams for some sort of clever, self-aware, self-reflexive metafictional review. The trick there is that reviews are sort of self-aware and self-reflexive by their nature, which is why e.g. it's completely unsurprising to see the author poke their head in and say "hey guys this is Sentimental Surrealist (not my real name) and here's what I think of Lost in the Funhouse or whatever it is I happen to be reviewing, which as of right now is...more
Andrew
Barth is such a lyrical writer, especially compared to most of the brooding postmodernist set. Just look at the opening story, "Night-Sea Journey." Gorgeous in its imagery, rich with philosophical inquiry, it's worthy of Calvino.

And Barth doesn't limit himself, he gracefully steps from style to style, going from that to weird biographies to formal experiments to lyrical, haunting childhood tales. Above all, the whole thing is a big, long mash note in love with the writing process.

I get the feeli...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
considering reputation, title & 'frame-tale' i expected unapologetic, playfully vapid exercises in po-mo cleverness (which i am by no means averse to by itself), & while that's not a wholly inaccurate descriptor of these stories, there's a lot more going on here: lost in the funhouse is more than the sum of its parts, & it's fun just seeing how things link up (it is, in many ways, a refutation of po-mo cleverness as vapid). i'd be lying if i said barth's constant self-consciousness d...more
Lee Foust
Reading this collection made me mad at my undergraduate profs from SF State U from the early '80s who never bothered to teach me that Postmodern Literature (Well, the postmodern novel) not only existed in America but was born in America. Why did we feel compelled to ignore Joseph Heller and John Barth (and even Don DeLillo until White Noise) and rather buy it back from Italo Calvino and Milan Kundera in overpriced trade paperbacks fostered upon us by Reaganite American psychos in publishing hell...more
Hadrian
A set of stories, some clever, some so damn clever that they are almost grating. I keep thinking that these language games are becoming dated, though.
Jesse
I picked up this collection of short stories, because it was referenced in a David Foster Wallace novella (Westward the Course of Empire Takes it's Way) that I massively enjoyed. The influence of Barth on DFW is readily apparent and "Lost in the Funhouse" is a carnival ride of a book. Full of self-reflexion, mobius strips, and retold Greek myths. The stories are fairly readable if you're not concerned with things like plot and/or plot resolution (a trick DFW handily usurped). But the ideas behin...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this over a span of several weeks, really. When I saw that the title page had "Fiction for print, live tape, and voice," I was intrigued and had to go find out what that meant. There are instructions by the author of which stories should be read out loud and which ones should have come recorded onto tape, of course none of them are. So the first thing I did was read the out loud ones out loud, which was a blast.

Then I got into the character of Ambrose, who appears in a few stories. I love...more
Derek
Bookended (almost) with two rather exceptional stories, "Ambrose His Mark" and "Anonymiad", with an absolute knockout in the middle, John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse astonishes and disappoints in almost equal measure. When he's on, as in the aforementioned stories, he's almost unbeatable, and when he's not on (almost every other story in the collection), he's almost unbearable.

The postmodern bent to most of the stories contained here largely works against the author, though when employed well,...more
Drew Lackovic
Lost in the Funhouse was my true gateway drug into the vein of postmodernism. Since reading this and many other of Barth's fiction, I've fallen completely for metafictive postmodernities and their like.

This book is sort of loosely linked stories. Several characters, such as Ambrose of "Lost in the Funhouse" reappear throughout the collection, but largely, this is an experiment in both fictional structure as well as interpretive form. Several stories were written with intention to be consumed in...more
Leo Robertson
Dear Mr Barth,

As I yet again write you a letter in a review of a book about writing about writing about writing (sigh!), I must apologise for not being clever enough to know what the hell you're on about in pretty much all of this. Should I take the time to deconstruct your stories, I suspect your only message is that life sucks and we will all die one day, in which case I must thank you for this highly original and important message that is worth taking the time to consider.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
NOT!

(Sig...more
Brad
A lot of "Lost in the Funhouse" is more clever than actually entertaining. Were I to describe one of the stories, and the postmodern tricks found therein, it'd probably sound very interesting, but actually reading it is another matter. That said, there's a lot of good stuff in here; my favourite was "Anonymiad," the story of a minstrel who is left by Agamemnon to watch over Clytemnestra, on the look out for infidelities. The minstrel is banished to a small island, where he invents the novel (non...more
1.1
This book is very well crafted, deep, interesting, and original. I felt that the editor was asleep for a few points of misspelling or repetition that didn't seem to belong, couldn't have been part of Barth's mission. That or I was oblivious to some deeper meaning in imperfection.

That's the sort of book it is. When I reread it those errors will either make sense or confirm my suspicions. They didn't detract wholly from the text, though. The short pieces in this book are for the most part incredib...more
Kelly
This book is without a doubt very clever and well-written. I tend to read "genre" books, but I'm branching out by reading a number of American literature pieces. This collection of short stories is one of the pieces I picked (by recommendation of an iTunesU course).

Most of the stories are related to one another. One of my favorites is the first: "Night-Sea Journey". At first glance it seems to be the story of a fish, but reading it again, you'll find it is about something else entirely.

Another...more
Nathan Forget
Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth is a collection of short stories, originally published in the late sixties. The stories are interconnected insofar as they deal with similar themes. They could best be described as meta-stories or stories about stories. There is a story about a writer speculating that he might really be a character in a story. Another is told from the point of view of the story itself. In this way, Barth is showing a series of stories as they might be seen in a funhouse mirror—...more
Eric Dirker
I believe that John Barth's "experimental novel" was a failure from beginning to end. There were a few gems. Ambrose His Mark and Petition were both quite remarkable and it was these exceptions that made the book almost readable. Unfortunately for this reader, all too many of the stories served more to obstruct me from my final goal, completion of the book and moving along to my next book (forget reading for enjoyment). Many stories seemed like barriers instead of conduits of ideas. The story ar...more
Matt
An author-recommended book that turned out to be a real disappointment. Barth rambles on in short story form about how hard a time he's having writing anything intelligible (hence, "Lost In the Funhouse"). There are two intriguing short stories in the midst of this mess, but otherwise it's just egotistical and arrogant stream-of-consciousness whining circa the mid 1960's. At multiple times throughout the second half of the book, he asks the reader why they're still reading, then places himself i...more
Dxmaniac69
As of about half way thru the book I just said "Fuck it" and gave up. Though I got what he was trying to do in many of the stories, which is call attention to the actual process of writing in addition to the writing of a story, I found myself unable to care at all. I simply lacked the ability to find any enjoyment in the process of reading this book. So I gave up. I rated it three stars as I can see the writer has a level of talent, but it failed to interest me.
The Awdude
This collection, I think, pretty much takes up where Borges left off as far as the early postmodern experimentation in short fiction goes. What I like about Lost in the Funhouse: the frank sincerity with which Barth regards his audience, the earnest attention he divides between a story and the idea(s) behind it, and, most of all, his puns. Yep, his puns. I'm a pun lovin' kind of reader (judge from that will you will about my value as a person in general), and Barth serves 'em up with all the fre...more
Stephen Shifflett
Barth is one of the great modern authors--one of the saving graces of our so-called post-modern era--that gives me hope in the future of true literature. I was getting books out of storage today and ran across my Barth collection and had to add them. His short story "Ambrose His Mark" comes to mind so often, even though it's been probably a decade since I read it last. The opening sentence is as memorable (for me) as any in literature...

"For whom is the funhouse fun? Perhaps for lovers. For Ambr...more
Fraser Kinnear
There are a few stories in here that are beyond my understanding (Glossolalia) or so intentionally boring I couldn't finish them (Title). However, the majority of the stories are so wonderful that in aggregate I think this is one of my favorite books so far this year.

My three favorites were Night Sea Journey, Lost in the Funhouse, and Menelaiad.

Menelaiad was the most work I have done reading in ages. But boy was it rewarding. The story has seven levels of dialogue and uses nested quotes to organ...more
David
It is always interesting to see Barth's short work, since length seems to heavily be a characteristic of most of his writing, and this is no exception. I'm still waffling on the individual story level whether I like this collection better than "Ten Nights and a Night" or not. It is amazing to see that Barthian complexity can be done on so short of a scale, though sometimes it is a bit wearying. I liked some of these stories better than others, though most of that is purely on an enjoyment scale...more
James Dyke
I really enjoyed this. So much of it seemed influenced by Beckett. And it clearly directly influenced Foster-Wallace, there is proof of that.

The whole 'look I'm writing about the writing process' did get a little tiring, i know metafiction is sort of the book's 'point', but I feel I'm (we're) all a little beyond that these days. That's not to say it isn't important or fun, the the title story to this is fantastic, a fictional story stripped of its fictionality exposing the constructs behind its...more
Paul
Jan 28, 2008 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
Wow, Postmodernism is getting OLD! Is what I realized when I read this book. It sort of has three implicit parts to it, I thought, the first having a sort of Dubliners tone to it, the second being pure unadulterated quintessential postmodern metafiction, and the third being some experimental stories about ancient Greeks -- Odysseus and Helen, etc. -- which were, I thought, extremely boring (except for when the dude has sex with a goat!). There's some great stuff in here, and it seems like he's m...more
Martin King
It has been suggested that John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse is not the best choice to serve as an introduction to his work, I agree. I read the volume after a friend recommended it following a general discussion of short stories. The recommendation was based on Barth’s stated purpose of presenting a series or sequence of stories rather than an assortment. Something I had difficulty in identifying in my read.
Night-Sea Journey and Lost in the Funhouse stand as the best efforts in the book. I must...more
Suzy
I prefaced my Lost in the Funhouse journey with Barth's essay "The Exhaustion of Literature." The essay I found myself more or less in agreement with. Barth proposes the upcoming death of the novel (in the current form), and discusses his love of work that combines writerly skill with aesthetic creativity. (I dig experimental fiction.) Lost in the Funhouse was the first collection he published after "The Exhaustion of Literature."

As such, I find myself interpreting it as his first major attempt...more
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8113
"John Simmons Barth (born May 27, 1930) 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,...more
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“Somewhere in the world there was a young woman with such splendid understanding that she'd see him entire, like a poem or story, and find his words so valuable after all that when he confessed his apprehensions she would explain why they were in fact the very things that made him precious to her...and to Western Civilization! There was no such girl, the simple truth being.” 32 likes
“He wishes he had never entered the funhouse. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead. But he's not. Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator -- though he would rather be among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed.” 17 likes
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