From Publishers Weekly
Technical ingenuity is a hallmark of Barth's work, and his latest novel relies almost entirely upon it. A Mbius strip of a narrative, the novel begins with the discovery by Ditsy, a transgendered boat captain, of a computer disk containing a novel, Coming Soon!!, by Johns "Hop" Johnson, an aspiring novelist whose specific aspiration is to use this novel, with its hypertextual accoutrements, to get into the Johns Hopkins creative writing program. Hop's novel concerns a Novelist Emeritus, John Barth, who is retiring from Johns Hopkins and writing a last "narrative," Coming Soon, which involves both a writing student named Hop Johnson and Ditsy's discovery of the Coming Soon floating computer disk. In both narratives, Hop is a member of the Arkangel Players on a showboat plying the Chesapeake Bay under the moniker The Original Floating Opera II, referring to Barth's first novel. Furthermore, the crew/cast is investigating the origin of Edna Ferber's Showboat, which was inspired by an earlier Chesapeake showboat, the James Adams Floating Theater. Unfortunately, the display of metafictional conceits that subtends the novel does not make up for clunky writing and uninspired characters. Hop Johnson, the Novelist Aspirant, seems to write, think and talk just like the Novelist Emeritus, which subtracts from the internecine authorial quarrel that is this novel's main interest. There is much gap filling (for example, we are given condensed reports of the news, from 1995 to 1999), and for large stretches the enterprise is seemingly propelled mainly by the need to fill pages with words. Readers are advised to turn to the original Floating Opera and leave this massy addendum to Barth's academic acolytes.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
"This tale of novelists Aspirant and 'Emeritus,' of Unoriginal Floating Operas, and of the possible End et cetera" marks the return after ten years of one of the grand old men of postmodern fiction a status that, charmingly, he does not seem to take too seriously. Indeed, one of the central functions of the novel is to spoof his own career and the experimental writers who have followed in his wake. The two central characters are an older novelist just retired from an academic career who is setting out to write his last novel but is suffering a bit from writer's block and a young M.F.A. student who believes that the future lies in electronic fiction that allows the reader to decide how the story should proceed by choosing from a variety of scenarios. The latter also happens to work on a showboat on the Chesapeake, The Original Floating Opera II, which becomes in a reprise of the fictional mentor's first novel, Barth's own first novel, and the Edna Ferber classic Show Boat the focus of their independent yet intertwined efforts to create a novel for the new millennium. In the end, however, it is not the story that matters but the perspective on the nature of the literary profession in this modern age and on the career of one of its most eminent members. Unfortunately, despite its charm, wit, and erudition, it is not likely to attract a mass audience. Highly recommended for collections of serious fiction in both public and academic libraries.- David. W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.