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The Tidewater Tales
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The Tidewater Tales

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  372 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Barth's richest, most joyous novel yet describes a couple's journey on the Chesapeake Bay, a cruise that overflows with stories--of past lives and love, entanglements with the CIA and toxic waste, and inventive brushes with Don Quixote, Odysseus and Scheherazade.
Hardcover, 655 pages
Published June 22nd 1987 by Putnam Adult (first published 1987)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
“Show, don’t tell.” But what if you are a story teller? And are there not better media for showing? What does this little mantra, or such nuggets as “Write what you know” (was it McElroy or Barthelme who said “Write what you don’t know”?), prescribe? May I suggest that it prescribes only a single narrow possibility of narrative construction, and perhaps even prescribes a non-narrative, painterly novel writing; that when narrative comes along we no longer in fact “show” but we tell tell tell! Tel ...more
Philipp
Feb 03, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hey, tearing a book apart is fun. This book is alluring, clever and full of sophistication. And it's a horrible book. The pretext of "Tide-water tales" is that reading the "right" books makes the difference between good and bad, beautiful and ugly, worthy and unworthy people. And don't get me wrong, I am all for reading books, I love reading. But lightning shall strike me the day I sniff at people because they don't read the "right" books or do not read at all.

In this waste of paper and ink, the
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tidewater Tales is John Barth’s nautical novel but his ship sails so slow as though there is a dead calm.
“There are two bombs aboard… Much gets discussed, and little or nothing gets done, with excellent reason. The twin bombs don’t go off… and the passengers and crew go home and eat and drink and breathe some more. Over the years, they get cancers and have heart attacks and give birth to defective children.”
The author’s voyage is a kind of quixotic journey and when two souls are lost in the sea
...more
Marc
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a strange one. Simultaneously loose and tight in structure, it works as a sort-of-sequel to Barth's previous novel Sabbatical: A Romance. But where that one gets surprisingly tense and dark in places, this is a much more leisurely told story, with side-trips into what reads like outtakes and further development of themes and stories from Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera. Nothing new here, and Barth is as always a master in making new variations on previous texts.

It's with the sort-of-se
...more
Ben Winch
This was going great until about halfway, when with CIA subplot stymied it descended ever further toward the absolute epitome of what, to me, is lame in metafiction – all those cardboard, cute Scheherazade and Don Quixote stories, and a neat deux ex machina resolution that felt like betrayal after so long a wait. Admittedly there were warning signs: the abysmal “Sex Education: Act I”, for eg, nearly stopped me in my tracks, though I forced myself to read it imagining it might have some relevance ...more
Christopher Sutch
Barth's most optimistic, creative, life-affirming novel, a rarity in postmodern fiction. One of my favorites.
Amy
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Rough Guide to Cult Fiction
Shelves: cult-fiction
While this book wasn't terrible, it did make me cringe multiple times. It's too clever for its own good, and the ending nearly made me crazy with all of the tidy wrapping up of characters.

This is a story about literally giving birth (to babies) and to birthing or creating stories. Kath and Peter are married, nearly 40, and expecting twins. Kath is 8.5 months pregnant at the outset and every reader knows that the entire story will end once she delivers. Peter is a writer that has been suffering f
...more
Jonathan Rimorin
I read this book when I was 17; I was going through a kind of a kick, from García Marquez to Grass to Rushdie to "Chimera" and "Giles Goat-Boy" and this. I remember loving it; I remember thinking that it was chock-full of genuine affection and actual love. I still have the copy of "Tidewater Tales" I had read back in 1987, but I'm afraid of how yellowed its pages and emotions may have become over the intervening years. I loved this book so much that I wrote a fan letter to John Barth (though tha ...more
Anne
Jun 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to read this book every summer while vacationing on Chincoteague Island. I loved it. Gradually, though, it seemed a little too precious for me, and I found myself skipping large sections. I guess I outgrew it.
Kate
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute feast of language and literary allusion.
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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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More about John Barth...