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The Sot-Weed Factor

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  5,798 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
Considered by critics to be Barth's most distinguished masterpiece, The Sot-Weed Factor has acquired the status of a modern classic. Set in the late 1600s, it recounts the wildly chaotic odyssey of hapless, ungainly Ebenezer Cooke, sent to the New World to look after his father's tobacco business and to record the struggles of the Maryland colony in an epic poem.

On his mis
Paperback, 756 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Atlantic Books (UK) (first published 1960)
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David Potter Yes, although it wouldn't do any harm to read The Floating Opera and The End of the Road first. Both are short, and along with The Sot-Weed Factor…moreYes, although it wouldn't do any harm to read The Floating Opera and The End of the Road first. Both are short, and along with The Sot-Weed Factor they make up Barth's Nihilism Trilogy. Sot-Weed is the best of the three (and I think his best book overall), but it is fun watching Barth's ideas develop with each.(less)

Community Reviews

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Franco  Santos
Jan 06, 2017 Franco Santos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, monsters
Luego de nueve días y más de 1200 páginas puedo decir con total seguridad que El plantador de tabaco es una obra maestra. Una historia declamada por decenas de personajes variopintos que entran en escena para luego salir y volver a entrar cientos de páginas después, piratas, esclavos, indios, personajes históricos como Charles Calvert, Francis Nicholson o el mismo Ebenezer Cooke y múltiples relatos dentro de relatos. Una locura llevada a su grado máximo, en la que la identidad carece de valor re ...more

Escher: Sphere, 1942, Maple, diameter 235mm

I visited the Escher museum in The Hague recently. It was a real treat because I've been fascinated by Escher's work since I first saw his ‘Hand Drawing Itself’ (view spoiler) and some of his other drawing puzzles when I was a teenager. I often doodle my own versions of puzzle drawings, turning a person's profile into an architectural feature, for example, or making a geometric pattern reveal a face hidden inside it. There's an absurdit
Richard Derus
Sep 13, 2012 Richard Derus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-loved books from my past

Rating: 5 golden stars of five, with a rapturous yodel cluster

The Publisher Says: Considered by critics to be Barth's most distinguished masterpiece, The Sot-Weed Factor has acquired the status of a modern classic. Set in the late 1600s, it recounts the wildly chaotic odyssey of hapless, ungainly Ebenezer Cooke, sent to the New World to look after his father's tobacco business and to record the struggles of the Maryland colony in an epic poem. On his mission, Cooke
Jul 01, 2012 B0nnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B0nnie by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Shelves: favourite-books
What a fun book. I'd like to compare it to Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, but alas it's already been done. The song's plot is not all that far from what John Barth is up to in The Sot-Weed Factor, but Barth is far more (dare I say it) exhausting.

This is a mock history of the real life poet Ebenezer Cooke, who wrote the Hudibrastic poem "The sot-weed factor: or, A voyage to Maryland. A satyr. In which is describ'd the laws, government, courts and constitutions of the country, and also the buildings, f
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Sextants and Parallels

John Barth took four years to write this epic Epic, and published it at the age of 30 in 1960.

I more or less spent four days inside its four walls over Easter (I was determined to gobble it up before the chocolate Easter eggs were finished!), but I could spend a lifetime (or what little remains of it) recounting its marvels.

This was my third Barth novel. I loved the first two. But this one totally blew my mind, both in terms of ambition and execution.

Swords and Cannons

I hav
Mar 29, 2015 Mona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Boisterous, Hilarious, Satirical, Epic Frolic Set in Seventeenth Century London and Colonial Maryland

A Goodreads buddy described this book as "a rollicking tale". Good description.

Don't expect brevity or logic here.

I already knew Barth was a formidable and unique writer, since I'd read and loved Lost in the Funhouse a long time ago.

The Sot-Weed Factor is an entirely different type of novel. So Barth, like the most brilliant writers, is extremely versatile and has proven he can write well in comp
Dec 20, 2012 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: for want of a name the shoe was lost
Recommended to Mariel by: Shananabananafofana
We sit here on a blind rock careening through space; we are all of us rushing headlong to the grave. Think you the worms will care, when anon they make a meal of you, whether you spent your moment sighing wigless in your chamber, or sacked the golden tombs of Montezuma? Lookee, the day’s nigh spent; ’tis gone careering into time forever… We are dying men: i’faith, there’s time for naught but bold resolves!

It kills me when I go to the movies and I'm sitting next to some little kid that has to stu
Apr 30, 2014 Mala rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Comedy Lovers
Recommended to Mala by: William H. Gass
"No pleasure pleasures me as doth a well-spun tale, be't sad or merry, shallow or deep! If the subject's privy business, or unpleasant, who cares a fig? The road to Heaven's beset with thistles, and methinks there's many a cow-pat on't. As for length, fie, fie!" He raised a horny finger. "A bad tale's long though it want but an eyeblink for the telling, and a good tale short though it take from St. Swithin's to Michaelmas to have done with't. Ha! And the plot is tangled, d'ye say? Is't more knot ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Megha rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews

This book is kind of nuts.
In a good, hilarious way, I mean.
"I am Ebenzer Cooke, Poet and Laureate of this province."
"Well, I was once called the Traveling Whore o' Dorset, but I don't boast of't."
Ebenzer Cooke has been waving his title in everyone's faces. So have been many others. Maryland is infested with poet laureates called Ebenzer Cooke. Henry Burlingame, on the other hand, is singlehandedly filling many shoes as he goes on a Mission Impossible-esque spree of changing disguises. Joan Toas
Dec 11, 2010 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015

Local man rewrites Maryland history.

'Dsheart, b' Truth, but I do believe that the gentleman known as John Barth Esquire was surely bit in the arse by Clio herself, which Fine Lady curst him with such a fever and ague and ashivering that could ne'er be shaken off, but only worked up and out, out into a tale the size of an Ocean and Beyond, encompassing a whole World, nay a Galaxy, nay a Cosmos no less, of the Incautious, the Devious, the Opportune, the Cockamamy, the Resourceful, the Shameless, t
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 David Lentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This true American masterpiece is written like a 17th century literary novel. The style could well be Fielding, except that Barth is even more hilarious.At a time when minimalist novelists seem to be in vogue, I revelled in the intelligent richness of the elaborate quixotic tale woven by Barth. When a novelist can write as well as peers like Saul Bellow or V.S. Naipaul, then a maximalist style like Barth's is to be savoured. Poor chaste poet laureate, Ebenezer Cooke, encounters harsh reality at ...more
MJ Nicholls
Feb 11, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
Health Warning!

This novel is nothing like Sorrentino’s 1983 novel Blue Pastoral. After extensive talks with leaders of the Nathan “N.R.” Public Evisceration & Associated Critical Dismantling-For-Jollies Corporation, we at the MJ Nicholls 20-Second Knocked-Off Reviews-for-the-sake-of-them Organisation & Affiliated Dunces Inc. would like to issue an apology for anyone who read a certain review of Blue Pastoral and emerged from the experience with the opinion this novel in any way resembled
I read this several years back so cannot make a real review. A prospective reader asks about the kind of humor it contains and whether it suffers from an ailment of early (1960) postmodern literature from being "bizarre to the point of fantasy." A definite "no" to that.

In this tale of a new English immigrant, Ebenezer Cooke, who has become a tobacco merchant (aka sot-weed factor) in colonial Maryland at the beginning of the 19th century. He is absurd in feeling special virtue over his celibacy,
Poesy/Prosey perfection. More fun than a barrel-full 'o brandy, and saucier than the Traveling Whore 'O Dorset on a particularly randy morn.
Sentimental Surrealist
One part revival of the so-called "anatomy novel" (big, rambling books without much by way of plot); part all-important postmodern tome; part study on topics such as identity, loyalty, naivete, colonialism and art; part experiment with seventeenth-century English (which gets a lot easier to read once you've sunk into the book); part metafictional hall-of-mirrors; part rip-roaring adventure story; part bildingsroman and one hundred percent ribald joke to rival Portnoy's Complaint. Gravity's Rainb ...more
Feb 18, 2012 Rayroy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is getting away from me, kind of like things in my life at the moment. It’s real good but I left it unread for too long. Fucking books I love them but they consume me. At bars I tell other drinkers, the serious and casual alike about books, I met women, go on dates, talk more about books then I do myself. I got this reading thing pretty bad, but I think it’s good for me. I wish life was like a novel, but it ain’t. I’m just rambling, been single longer then I’d like to admit, it could ...more
Jun 13, 2010 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Joel bought me something several years ago for xmas. I already owned it. He kept that copy and asked, teeth gritted, what I wanted. I suggested this and read it over the holidays, particularly one hungover party at my parents'. Punning and ribald, it must be situated just below Pynchon, specifically Mason and Dixon. It is disquieting how polarizing otherwise literate people are concerning Mason and Dixon. One should read the Sot-Weed Factor if at all concerned with the undulating comic possibili ...more
Dec 16, 2013 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-read
HEAR YE, HEAR YE! I am starting a rebellion against all who do not want to wear periwigs.

I feel that these are a classy way to display ones self, as well as carrying a sword to defend one's honor. I shall call my new land BARTHLANDIA. The national book shall be The Sot-Weed Factor, we shall eat eggplant every Friday, and drink away our sorrows with rum with much merry making. Our national currency shall be poetry, and ALL of the elected officials shall be elected through eating contests, (Kobay
Chance Maree
Jul 26, 2012 Chance Maree rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, literary

“In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke…”

The Sot-Weed Factor hooked me from the first sentence.

John Barth's novel was inspired by a poem of the same name written by Ebenezer Cooke in 1708. The novel itself draws on official archives of Maryland, but its historical account is animated by a whirlpool of imagination.

The plot pivots and twirls with intrigue, counter-int
May 08, 2010 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
My third or fourth read of this -- I’m not sure, but really, who the hell can keep track of things like that anymore? The important thing is, I still dearly love this book, it’s still sheer pleasure, a perfect delight, from page 1 to page 756. (OK,there was a tiny span where Lord Baltimore is talking about Maryland's history that got a bit boring, a handful of pages, but other than that, perfect. Really.)
Oct 07, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've ever read. I'll need a while to think about it before trying to articulate my thoughts. I'll just say that it was much better than I could ever have hoped, and I think it's required reading for anyone at all into long, postmodern novels.
Camille Stein
Dec 27, 2013 Camille Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Sot-Weed Factor -

Era ciertamente un espectáculo de lo más insólito: más flaco aún que de costumbre debido al rigor de los meses que había pasado embarcado, Ebenezer avanzaba por la carretera de troncos dando zancadas como una cigüeña con las plumas erizadas. Llevaba los pies desnudos y llenos de ampollas, la camisa y los pantalones hechos jirones; rapado y afeitado cuando lo raptaron del ‘Poseidón’, ahora le había crecido salvaje el pelo del cuero cabelludo y de la barbil
Sep 14, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing
A completely preposterous, hilarious and brilliant book about, among a million other things, the evils of innocence. Written beautifully in 17th century prose, in which time the book is set. About Ebeneezer Cooke, possibly the poet laureate of the colony of Maryland, depending on whom you believe, which in this book should be no one at all. Every character he meets has at least one lengthy story to tell, always fascinating, about events seemingly distant from Cooke's story, yet which inevitably ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Emma rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This is a substantial and detailed farce of sorts or comedy of errors at least. There was an actual Ebeneezer Cooke who wrote the poem although this is a work of fiction. I read it first 25 years ago and loved it. I tried to reread this and just got snagged by all the detail and found I don't have the time or mental energy to complete the reread. It IS wonderful but maybe once is enough!
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Si algo tenía claro era que la vuelta al blog después de las vacaciones tenía que ser a lo grande; ya que este post es el número ciento cincuenta y para tal acontecimiento era necesario que el comentario se refiriese a una “magna” obra. Dicho y hecho, aprovecharemos el momento para hablar de “El plantador de tabaco” del norteamericano John Barth.
plantador_gdeDesde que empecé Filología Inglesa tengo una pequeña obsesión con pintar, rellenar tod

So there I was, excitedly embarking on my reading list for 1960, expecting all things more modern. I checked The Sot-Weed Factor out of the library and hit a few barriers.

First off was the title. Sometimes I go around for years with a tantalizing title in my mind but without any conception of what the book is about. For example, The View From Pompey's Head, a 1954 bestseller by Hamilton Basso. I'd picked it up at a going-out-of-business sale at a local used bookstore, thinking it must be about a
Carrie The Wade
Aug 03, 2011 Carrie The Wade rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A few years ago a creative writing teacher recommended that I read this book after writing a trite little fake-historical fiction short story about an artists' colony in Massachusetts Bay around 1636. The Sot-Weed Factor is the kind of book that makes you feel worthless as a writer for its sheer brilliance. I have quickly abandoned all hope of ever rewriting that narrative from 2008 ever again because John Barth has already written it in a way that will overshadow any kind of fiction that dare t ...more
Francisco H. González
El plantador de tabaco lo publicó en su día la editorial Cátedra. Luego dejó de editarlo y ahora de la mano de la editorial Sexto Piso, este año he tenido la ocasión de leerlo, con traducción y prólogo de Eduardo Lago.

El libro es un tocho de 1.173 páginas (que alberga en su interior, por ejemplo, seis páginas de insultos entre dos rameras). Un libro muy extenso, empero muy divertido.

La historia se ambienta en el siglo XVII, y está escrito empleando el lenguaje de esa época, lo cual si se hace bi
Jan 04, 2009 terrycojones rated it really liked it
It's a toss up whether to give this 4 or 5 stars. In the end I went with 4 because giving it 5 would leave no clear category for books that are even better. I tend to ignore people who rate everything as a 5.

Having said that, The Sot-Weed Factor is a great read. In high school one of my classmates asked our wonderful English teacher for a list of books he'd recommend. I kept the list for years. There were probably 4 Barth titles on it and I eventually got to them.

The Sot-Weed Factor is perhaps m
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Goodreads Librari...: Change description 2 14 Dec 06, 2015 03:52AM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 0586092161 2 13 Mar 16, 2015 06:47PM  
the sot weed factor 15 115 Feb 05, 2015 10:37AM  
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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).
More about John Barth...

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“My dear fellow,' Burlingame said, 'we sit here on a blind rock careening through space; we are all of us rushing headlong to the grave. Think you the worms will care, when anon they make a meal of you, whether you spent your moment sighing wigless in your chamber, or sacked the golden towns of Montezuma? Lookee, the day's nigh spent; 'tis gone careening into time forever. Not a tale's length past we lined our bowels with dinner, and already they growl for more. We are dying men, Ebenezer: i'faith, there's time for naught but bold resolves!” 31 likes
“All men are loyal, but their objects of allegiance are at best approximate.” 16 likes
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