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On with the Story

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  16 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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Average rating 3.69  · 
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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.
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's John Barth. It's more about how stories can work than it is the actual story, but there's still a story involved, and it's a good story that you have to piece together as you go. I thought this was a collection of short stories, but it's more of a series of stories within stories, but like I said, it's Barth.
Chris McCracken
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Christopher Sutch
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Made it to p. 205/257 and decided I needed to get on with my life ...
i like barth a lot and i thought this book was going to be like my two favorites by him (chimera and tidewater tails). and it was but ... by the middle of the book the two plots just keep repeating and it got tedious and kind if depressing. so i stopped reading.
Jesse Farmer
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best Barth I’ve ever read. Touching beyond words. Endlessly creative. The kind of book you can give to both your favorite jaded pomo enthusiast, and your mom.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
Post-modernism should be a crime. This was horrible.
Jul 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Cooper Cooper
Jul 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 14, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 20, 2008 added it
Shelves: want-to-read
As seen here. ...more
mimosa maoist
Kind of like domesticated postmodernism.
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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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