Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sot-Weed Factor” as Want to Read:
The Sot-Weed Factor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sot-Weed Factor

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  6,509 ratings  ·  373 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
...more
Paperback, 756 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Atlantic Books (UK) (first published 1960)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sot-Weed Factor, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Todd Ellis This or Lost in the Funhouse. LITF isn't all golden, but it's a quicker way to get a taste of his style if you're hesitant to read this beast of a…moreThis or Lost in the Funhouse. LITF isn't all golden, but it's a quicker way to get a taste of his style if you're hesitant to read this beast of a book. Some of its stories are absolute classics, too.

I would only recommend the Floating Opera or the End of the Road if you're a completist. Both are about as average as you can get, IMO.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,509 ratings  ·  373 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Michael
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a sheer marvel. Set in the 1600s, it's awash in lyrical excess, bawdy humor, historical satire, human vice, roguish fools, epic intent, and pirates and Indians and prostitutes and poets, oh my! The sheer life force of this novel is amazing, the prose is masterful and wickedly funny, and the journey is like nothing I've ever been on before. Now I'll shut up and let the far more eloquent Mr. Barth take over. Here's the opening line:

"In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there w
...more
Fionnuala

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
...more
Richard Derus
Sep 13, 2012 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
...more
B0nnie
Jul 01, 2012 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
...more
Tony
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
When we heap obloquy on Satan, is't not ourselves we scold, for that we secretly admire his Heavenly insurrection?

I knew naught of John Barth till I read this. He was a Marylander by birth and here, his third novel, he writes an historical fiction of earliest Maryland. There are recognizable names, and recognizable vignettes, but Barth takes liberties. It is, instead, an historical farce, and so perforce more honest.

We Americans are a self-loathing lot. That Satan thing, supra. We take an odd pr
...more
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
...more
Mona
Mar 29, 2015 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
...more
Mariel
Dec 20, 2012 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
...more
Edward
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike many other reviewers, I did not have the experience of being pleasurably catapulted headlong into the world of Ebenezer Cooke and his associates. In fact, I struggled with this novel for hundreds of pages before I started to enjoy it. I dislike the particular style the book parodies and resembles, and found the plot and characters to be overtly silly, the adventures unbelievable. It took a long time for me to suspend my cynicism and allow myself just to roll with the punches.

While the st
...more
Mala
Apr 30, 2014 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
Megha
Aug 14, 2012 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
...more
George
Dec 16, 2013 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
...more
·Karen·
Dec 11, 2010 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
...more
MJ Nicholls
Feb 11, 2010 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
...more
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 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
Kyle
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.
Michael
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.

This is the story 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 celib
...more
Jonathan
Poesy/Prosey perfection. More fun than a barrel-full 'o brandy, and saucier than the Traveling Whore 'O Dorset on a particularly randy morn.
Bill Shannon
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
So my dad hipped me to The Sot-Weed Factor (which, in 2010s parlance translates to The Tobacco Farmer) several years ago and I couldn't find it anywhere, so I decided to just do the audiobook thing. I think the longest audiobook I had read up until this point was about 21 hours. TSWF clocks in at a whopping forty-one hours! Needless to say I had my work cut out for me.

It goes like this: Ebenezer Cooke (a real guy) is born in London and given his father's tobacco (sot-weed) farm in Maryland. Cook
...more
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
Rayroy
Feb 18, 2012 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
Jonfaith
Jun 13, 2010 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
Suzanne
May 08, 2010 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.)
Lisa Reads & Reviews
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary, kindle

“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
...more
Simon Robs
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This thoroughly enthralling tale set mostly in the British colony of 17th century Maryland - a telling of fledgling willy-nilly poet Laureate of same and his "Marylaniad" one Ebeneezer Cooke who with his vast cast of characters (some who often as not act impersonator to EC) including his twin sister and a blithering plot of vicissitude and philosophical turnabout would mystify a Merlin. Methinks this ye yea nay tale o' yore style an allegory on karma withal existential precepts. A fair look to t ...more
Sean
Sep 14, 2008 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
Emma
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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!
Judy

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
...more
Carrie
Aug 03, 2011 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
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Sot-Weed Factor is a voyage - a great ridiculous journey through space, time, life and poetry.
“My dear fellow, 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?”
The biggest losers are the biggest adventurers.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
History of Wedding Gowns 1 3 Feb 21, 2018 03:16AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Change description 2 14 Dec 06, 2015 04:52AM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 0586092161 2 13 Mar 16, 2015 06:47PM  
the sot weed factor 15 121 Feb 05, 2015 11:37AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Recognitions
  • The Tunnel
  • Dog Soldiers
  • Falconer
  • Call It Sleep
  • Loving
  • The Man Who Loved Children
  • Darconville’s Cat
  • You Bright and Risen Angels
  • Mulligan Stew
  • At Swim-Two-Birds
  • Women and Men
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1-3)
  • The Public Burning
  • The Assistant
  • The Cannibal
  • Take It or Leave It
  • The Gold Bug Variations
See similar books…
460 followers
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
“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!” 39 likes
“All men are loyal, but their objects of allegiance are at best approximate.” 22 likes
More quotes…