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The Floating Opera and The End of the Road

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,939 ratings  ·  114 reviews
The Floating Opera and The End Of The Road are John Barth's first two novels.Their relationship to each other is evident not only in their ribald subject matter but in the eccentric characters and bitterly humorous tone of the narratives.Both concern strange, consuming love triangles and the destructive effect of an overactive intellect on the emotions.Separately they give ...more
Paperback, 442 pages
Published March 11th 1997 by Anchor Books (first published 1958)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  1,939 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read these two books in college and had the opportunity to meet John Barth at a book signing in the mid-eighties. He looked like a good author should: blazing eyes, etc. I told him I loved the two books so much. He said, "I wrote those when I was just about your age. It would be interesting to see if you liked them so much in twenty years." Then I told him I was going to read The Sot Weed Factor next. He said, "Don't waste your time on more of my books--there are too many good ones out there ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
According to my Netflix account, the film of "The End of the the Road" will finally (and unfortunately) be released on dvd in September of this year. John Barth has notoriously endorsed the view of critic John Simon whereby it is said that (view spoiler) "Fairly said, alas," quoth John B. Upon initial release the ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
One-minute review: The Floating Opera goooood! The End of the Road baaaaaaad!

And yet, despite the disappointment of the second book, I still want to throw myself immediately into Giles Goat-Boy, which should tell you the power of John Barth.

P.S. The Sot-Weed Factor also good.
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
the passage that I will take to my grave:

"So I left the ticket window and took a seat on one of the benches in the middle of the concourse to make up my mind. And it was there that I simply ran out of motives, as a car runs out of gas. There was no reason to go to Cincinnati, Ohio. There was no reason to go to Crestline, Ohio. Or Dayton, Ohio; or Lima, Ohio. There was no reason, either, to go back to the apartment hotel, or for that matter to go anywhere. There was no reason to do anything. My
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading John Barth's "The Floating Opera and The End of the Road" is as much fun that you can have while wearing pants, though you could read the book naked just make sure nobody is looking in on you through the window or if your going to read nude close the curtains.

I should write a seriuos review but with the Hostel Amazon Takeover why put forth the effort, I mean have you read some of the reviews on Amazon, the standards are way down. Read or Don't Read this book but don't call yourself a
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Both of these are great. Not life-altering, earth-shattering, genre-revolutionizing great, but well worth your time. There are plenty of glimmers here of what would later become Barth's signature brilliance. And if you don't already know what that might be, I'd hate to spoil it for you with blandishing definitions. Barth is as fun as serious literature gets.

"Though it is too much to expect that I should become solemn about it, certainly the direction of this day's rationalizing was an awesome
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read and reviewed these two books separately:

The Floating Opera:

The End of the Road:
Chris Via
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Always a great time with Mr. Barth!
Simon Robs
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Well now Mr. Barth, what on earth were you *thinking* as you composed these twined first go's at novel writing, hmm? I mean it's plain, that is your plotting, setting and tracking worldly events all linear with hardly a misshaped twist or turn. When you go for the psychological throat though, do synch up villainy appropriately, make your anti-hero flawlessly philosophical besides pathological; I know, you did, right. Though you may have moved upon that, if not/maybe enough to pull through an ...more
Bob Arbogast
Jun 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of good literature
I have always been a fan of “End of the Road” and now that “The Floating Opera” is experiencing a resurgence, I wanted to read it. As many people have said before me, Barth is a gifted storyteller, and he is intelligent and witty. He is also very good a co-opting literary styles and making them his own, in this case the narrator is a novice writer who through his inexperience breaks narrative conventions as he understand them, and still manages to tell a compelling story.

Todd Andrews is a
Crystal Billy
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I only read The Floating Opera but it was solid. Nice weavings of philosophy+story but also could not really escape that 1st novel amateurishness of it, esp. since it came out so long ago
Tom Carson
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
John Barth is the kind of writer who, if you are not a writer, makes you want to write or, if you are trying to be a writer, makes you want to stop completely, as you feel that you could not possibly explore things more thoroughly and eloquently as he can. In short, he is a joy to read.

His characters are at once logical and absurd, universal and absolutely inhuman. They are at once everything that the reader wants to be and everything that he or she finds ridiculous. In this sense, though they
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the National Book Award for The Floating Opera, Barth's companion piece, The End of the Road, has the same triangular love affair that the participants try to make workable. The action in both frequently turns out to be quite different than one would expect, the most notable scene being the narrator's initiation into nighttime frontline warfare when an 18 year-old. Completely inexperienced and cut off from contact with anyone with artillery shells whisling overhead, he was terrified ...more
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I can't decide if these should be rated/reviewed together or separately. But since I read the books in sucession and they were together in one volume, and clearly linked by subject, I'll rate them together. One is the study of potential suicide in minute forms; the other approaches guilt and irreverence using common neurosis. Both should be about love affairs but both are about much more, so much that the affair shrinks under the weight of everything else...and somehow, they aren't about love at ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Entertaining, complex, disturbing.
Rossrn Nunamaker
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was first introduced to John Barth in HS when we were assigned to read The Floating Opera.

Our teacher gave us the book and the first reading assignment and told us all not to act on anything we read, but instead to be ready to discuss it tomorrow in class.

My father, seeing the book, and knowing it was taught at the school, as he was also a teacher, mentioned that he had John Barth as his Freshman Comp teacher at Penn State. He never understood as a then Engineering student how he wound up in
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This review focuses on The Floating Opera rather than The End of the Road, which is an altogether bleak and unenjoyable text, while The Floating Opera is bleak but readable.

Todd Andrews likes to think of himself as a reasonable man. The son of a successful lawyer and the sort of WASP that dominated the 20th-century Chesapeake Bay Area, Andrews has no reason to be discontent. But two events cause him to begin to deconstruct his morality: the discovery of a life-threatening illness and his
Iván Victorica
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible fast-paced lecture. Left me speechless.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book every year and it never disappoints. I always learn something new.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read three chapters and that was enough. Too silly, too dad-jokes-y, too juvenile.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Introduction by Barth summarizes the material incredibly well and is refreshingly frank, like Pynchon's intro to Slow Learner.
C. Quabela
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My first experience with John Barth was with his collection of short stories "Lost in the Fun House." I was magnified by his finesse with language and, although I didn't feel that all of those stories were successes (and what writer's ever are?), he left me spellbound as to the potential of future fiction. Having come across him through one of my favorite authors David Foster Wallace and his story "Westward the Course of Empire Takes it's Way," which was a response to Barth's short story from ...more
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I didn't know much about these going in, so I was unprepared for how much there was to swallow, philosophically speaking. I want to read it again right away (though I won't), because I wasn't really ready for it. I wasn't reading quite the right way. After I realized what I'd gotten myself into and got my feet under me, it was better, but for a moment there it was a scramble of recontextualization.

Anyway. It has a heavy nihilist streak, and flat out makes a lot of claims about Life. I had some
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2011
I first heard about this book in one of my undergrad philosophy classes. I always thought of it as a philosophical treatise and felt a little intimidated by it. As I was looking back on the books I read in 2010, I realized I had read a lot of pulpy fiction and was feeling like I should add something with a little more mental nutrition to my night stand. With this goal in mind, I decided to go to the Floating Opera. While I feel like I did get the intellectual stimulation I felt I needed, I was ...more
Jeff Buddle
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Hmm. John Barth. Are people still reading him? They should be. These two novels are twined together thematically as well as physically. Each has a bizarre love triangle. In each, a character mediates on the idea of suicide. Both are short, but feel rich. Barth cobbles together his novels in discrete chunks, little stories within the story that eventually reveal the whole; sometimes they're chunks of stories distributed evenly throughout the novel.

I believe this is how Barth builds a page-turner
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: law-and-lit
This pertains only to the first novel in the book, "The Floating Opera." (The other I haven't read, yet.) Though the speaker professes that his aim in writing the book is to chronologically tell the events of one day when he "changed his mind," he actually often jumps around in time to other significant days in his life to attempt to raise or explain a specific idea or event. This is an interesting book and essentially post-modernist (concerned as it is with narrative, manipulation of form and ...more
Alexander Kot
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This review is only addressing The Floating Opera as I've yet to read The End of the Road. I suspect I really enjoyed this book because I identified with the main character. I sympathized with his lack of enthusiasm for day to day trivialities or the standards expected of him both professionally and personally. The lack of pathos I thought gave his suicidal solution more weight because it was not the typical, "Woe is me, goodbye cruel world," solipsism that sadly seems to always go hand in hand ...more
Apr 27, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: philosophy-as-way-of-life folks
The Floating Opera and the End of the Road are John Barth's first and second novels--mainly overlooked until he published his third, The Sot-Weed Factor. Both novels are now published together (and have been for some time). I've just finished The Floating Opera, and for the sake of cleanliness want to take the whole thing off my "currently reading" list, even though I haven't gotten to the second book. Anyway, The Floating Opera is a good read. It's entertaining and engaging and manages to carry ...more
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
How could I forget this book? John Barth is reported to have had a whole literary theory behind it's crafting - in the discussion on a readerly text versus a writerly text. Texts come in two ways, Barth asserts.

Some of this theory about the text and space made in it for the reader was built part on the basis of ideas from Lacan suppposedly. I just found that out, and I really must say I do recall a particular feeling of pleasure or enjoyment in reading this Floating Opera a book, a lyric a
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Floating Opera was great. Barth's main character is self-absorbed and imaginative - over thinking things in a Proust-like manner without the floweriness.

The story is a bit harsh, ironic, and down-to-earth for all the rationalization that the characters go through to make sense of their lives.

The narrator hooks the reader from the beginning with his chatty manner of speaking and his casual reference to the day, many years ago, when he changed his mind and decided not to kill himself.

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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).
“So, reader, should you ever find yourself writing about the world, take care not to nibble at the many tempting symbols she sets squarely in your path, or you'll be baited into saying things you don't really mean, and offending the people you want most to entertain. Develop, if you can, the technique of the pall bearers and myself: smile, to be sure -- for fucking dogs are truly funny -- but walk on and say nothing, as though you hadn't noticed.” 4 likes
“There is no way to master the fact with which I live.” 3 likes
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