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John Barth
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam (1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553140795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553140798
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.7 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 873,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
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, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to be the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
"The Sot-Weed Factor" is originally a satirical poem, written by a certain Ebenezer Cooke, and is among the earliest pieces of literature to come out of the newly settled America. John Barth has borrowed the name of both author and work, and has sculptured a beautiful work, a grand tale about small and greater men. The characters are diverse, and the striking technique of Mr Barth makes them all come alive. The plotline is too complicated to explain in full, but still easy to follow, and the passages about an earlier journey around Chesapeake bay are hilarious, written in an English only a scholar could contrive (Mr Barth is a professor of English). And for all of those who like good, old-fashioned storytelling from which you may actually learn something, the tale of Ebenezer's (I know him so well that I only use his first name) awowed innocence, with the disastrous results it has for himself and others, gives an opportunity to ponder this aspect of human existenc.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful; a timeless classic 22 Dec 2010
Over the first three months of 1955, American author John Barth wrote the first part of an intended trilogy of works -- his 'nihilistic comedy', "The Floating Opera". He completed the second part, "The End of the Road" (a 'nihilistic tragedy') in the final three months of the same year. Encouraged by the speed with which he composed these two books, Barth embarked on the final part, convinced he would have it completed by the time he turned 26, on May 27, 1956. In the end, it took him over three years to pen the 800-odd pages of what was to became "The Sot-Weed Factor" -- a massive and massively complex burlesque comedy, in antiquated style, which would forever after be seen as one of his greatest achievements, and the book that would stand as a timeless landmark to the brilliance of this young American writer. In deciding a subject for this book, Barth underwent something of a major crisis in a hitherto almost blind pursuit of realism in his fiction, eventually coming to a realisation that words, ultimately, can never truly convey reality, thus making realism an imperfect tool for communicating the truth of anything. In David Morel's seminal paper, "Ebenezer Cooke, Sot-Weed Factor Redivivus: The Genesis of John Barth's The Sot- Weed Factor" (published in the Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 8, No. 1 [Spring, 1975]) Barth is quoted as summing up his views in an interview, thus: "One ought to know about Reality before one writes realistic novels. Since I don't know much about Reality, it will have to be abolished. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 6 Jan 2007
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Ebenezer Cooke is one of the most moving and endearing characters I've ever come across. The picaresque tale of his hapless adventures will have you laughing out loud at times, and deeply sympathizing with his troubles at the same time. Barth's language is superb too: of course it's not really how people spoke in those days, but it feels ever so right.

Thick as it may be, you'll wish this novel had twice as many pages to enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!! 7 Aug 2010
Laugh out loud funny at the beginning (embarrassing on the beach)this is a rollicking bawdy adventure with so many twists and turns. It is an intelligent work that never fails to entertain from start to finish. Brilliant! About to order my next J Barth.
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