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On with the Story

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Using the venerable literary device of the bedtime story, which links fictions as different as The Arabian Nights and Charlotte's Web, John Barth ingeniously interweaves stories from an ongoing, high-spirited but deadly serious nocturnal game of tale-telling by a more or less desperate loving couple vacationing at their "last resort". As Scheherazade spun out her bedtime s ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Back Bay Books (first published 1996)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Somehow I stumbled upon this book at a library sale back in 1996. My first encounter with meta-fiction. 10 years later I finally got around to reading Barth's Sot-Weed Factor and subsequently blew through his entire life's work. Barth is a novelist of Smart Fat Tomes, foremost, but his short stories are an easy way to get a glimpse into what he's about.
Mike
After writing his famous door-stopper novels in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Barth has returned to the short-story format with great success. Most of these stories were previously published in magazines, and as with all such collections, there are some repeated themes and ideas, but Barth handles this in a really lovely way. He frames the collection as the 12 stories an older couple tell each other near the end of their lives - one tale for each of the 12 nights of the last vacation they will take tog ...more
Cooper Cooper
In this book of stories postmodernist Barth parades his obsessions: life as a story, the story-within-the-story-within-the-story (à la Scheherazade), narrative technique, and contemporary science (especially quantum theory, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, chaos theory and Mandelbrot fractals). A longtime Johns Hopkins professor of creative writing, Barth knows how to write action, exposition, dialogue, etc., but to my mind he overintellectualizes: presqueezes the juice so there’s little lef ...more
Mike Ingram
For some reason I'd always had something of a John Barth mental block. I'm not sure why, but I thought of him as a writer I would probably appreciate on an intellectual level but not really enjoy reading. I think I maybe lumped him in with some other postmodernist American writers who fit that bill, whose work felt like academic arguments in need of actual story.

Cut to: Me actually reading this book, and liking it. Yes, there's metafictional gamesmanship, but I found the book's arguments about t
...more
Renee
I can't remember when I've enjoyed a book less than On With The Story, by John Barth. You know it's not a good sign when you start a review that way. For a short book (257pp), it has taken me months to complete. Now to be fair, I'm not a big fan of short stories, but I'm willing to give them a chance.

The premise of this collection of short stories is that a married couple is on vacation or something, and is telling each other (or one is telling the other) a bunch of stories to pass the time duri
...more
Cielo
I had to read this book in segments, as the hashing of dialogue can get disorienting. The increasingly heavy knowledge that the end is imminent (of the book, of the story, of the storyline, of the character's lifeline) made for a delectably-paced, though tragic, tale. The tragedy is also the beauty, however as Barth tackles the reality of our limited time on Earth, interspersing the story-lines with parallels of the the cyclical nature of the universe wholly. In this story of stories, Barth expl ...more
Brendan
This is a beautifully sad collection of stories. Hardly a gimmicky post-modern construct, the interwovenness of the tales here, combined with the brief framing sections, is intricate, expertly constructed, and engrossing. Even the sadness of endings and rapidly-approaching tragedies woven into most narratives only add to the gorgeousness. One of the best pieces of Barth's work I've read, for sure.
Matt
I'll be honest . . . I didn't finish this collection, even though at first I was intrigued by the analysis of the emotional-minutiae-of-a-moment method. I thought that brief purgatory between calm and grief that Barth explores was beautifully written, but I just couldn't read a series-worth in that style.
Christopher Sutch
Doesn't quite have the panache or intensity of _Lost in the Funhouse_, and some of the stories fall flat. But the narrative frame is interesting, there's lots of interesting stuff about quantum mechanics, and some of the stories still have that Barth flair to them.
Chris McCracken
There should be a six-star rating, seven, fifty-nine. I couldn't stop last night. Postmodern stuff is sometimes so cold -- all theory and no heart. This is just what I've been waiting for. I can tell this is going to go down as one of my all-time favorites.
Ellen
Mar 20, 2008 Ellen added it
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"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
More about John Barth...
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