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Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons [Kindle Edition]

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

Print List Price: $15.95
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Book Description

John Barth stays true to form in Every Third Thought, written from the perspective of a character Barth introduced in his short story collection The Development. George I. Newett and his wife Amanda Todd lived in the gated community of Heron Bay Estates until its destruction by a fluke tornado. This event, Newett notes, occurred on the 77th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash, a detail that would appear insignificant if it were not for several subsequent events. The stress of the tornado’s devastation prompts the Newett-Todds to depart on a European vacation, during which George suffers a fall on none other than his 77th birthday, the first day of autumn (or more cryptically, Fall). Following this coincidence, George experiences the first of what is to become five serial visions, each appearing to him on the first day of the ensuing seasons, and each corresponding to a pivotal event in that season of his life.

As the novel unfolds, so do these uncanny coincidences, and it is clear that, as ever, Barth possesses an unmatched talent in balancing his characteristic style and wit with vivid, page-turning storytelling.


Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Every Third Thought

"Every Third Thought has more to say about life, death, the "human condition," and maybe most particularly and surprisingly the deathlessness of love (bref: not Time's fool), than an entire constellation of newer, prettier literary lights." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"Barth delivers yet another playful romp through the lives of characters both imprisoned and liberated by their constant urge to tell stories in language that shifts shape as constantly as their lives shift spaces . . . [A] multilayered comic masterpiece." —Library Journal

"Flares of outrage over war and politics mix with funny bits about e-technology and struggles with the muse, and unabashed gratitude for friendship, the abiding love of a smart spouse, and the depthless pleasure and solace of story." —Booklist

Product Details

  • File Size: 433 KB
  • Print Length: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (October 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005LXC8XS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,294 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where have all the flowers gone? October 1, 2011
Format:Hardcover
In dozens of ways John Barth (through his narrator and fictional alter ego, G. I. Newitt) asks that question in his latest novel. George Newitt made his first appearance in "The Development", Barth's 2008 novel-in-nine-short-stories. In EVERY THIRD THOUGHT Newitt continues the story of his life as a retired-college-professor/minimally-acclaimed-fiction-writer happily married to Amanda Todd (also a college professor) and living in a condo on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In addition, Newitt reflects back on the major episodes of his life, particularly those shared with his best friend from youth, Ned Prosper; he wrestles with his next novel; and he becomes increasingly pre-occupied with mortality.

EVERY THIRD THOUGHT has all the hallmarks of Barthian fiction, including wit, word play, exercises in meta-fiction, self-awareness, a rather sophomoric fascination with sex, and joie de vivre. Now eighty-one, Barth does not seem to have lost much velocity on his literary fastball, though his appearances now are much shorter than they once were. For me, that's actually a plus, for as entertaining as I usually find Barth, his is a style of entertainment that can become a tad wearisome at 750 pages ("The Sot-Weed Factor" and "Giles Goat-Boy"). No such problem with the 182 pages of EVERY THIRD THOUGHT.

Still, Barth/Newitt manages to pack a lot into those 182 pages: politics, history, sex, Lit Crit, et al. There is, nonetheless, a clearly predominant theme - the impending end of life. That theme is alluded to by the novel's title, which is taken from Shakespeare's "The Tempest", in which Prospero says "And thence retire me to my Milan, where / Every third thought shall be my grave.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life as Story October 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can't remember who it was who described Barth's writing as "self-consuming meta-fiction", but it definitely fits. But in a good way. This book, like some others before it (e.g., Once Upon a Time), narrates the fictional story of the writing of the book itself. The narrator, George I. Newett, is writing the book to complete the work of his lost friend, Ned Prosper, who may or may not have existed (within the story). You can't tell whether the story is being drawn from real life or real life is being drawn from the story. At one point in the book, Newett's wife and fellow writer, Amanda, jabs the theme in deep, saying, "So, then: Are we fictitious too . . . ?"

It's not all postmodern styling. There's a very good story here, and it grows on you. "Every Third Thought" refers to the reconsiderations after "on second thought", and the subtitle, "A Novel in Five Seasons", refers to the seasons of George Newett's (and Barth's) life, and his marriage with Amanda. He is in his second "Fall" (the first centered on an actual fall on a vacation -- hence a "trip and fall" -- with Amanda, visiting Stratford, home of Shakespeare).

Newett's second Fall parallels Barth's own, both author and character approaching their eightieth years as Barth was writing the book. I won't spoil the ending. The one thing I'll say about it is that it is sadly honest.

Barth has always played at this disappearing boundary between living a life and writing a story. I know it can be tedious at times, especially to un-indoctrinated readers, and it's coupled with a lot of alliterative stylings, puns, and the like. In the end though, Barth is living and telling a compelling story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment December 21, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm no Barth scholar, but ten years ago, I was charmed and touched by his rambling postmodern The Floating Opera, a book he wrote in the mid-twentieth century. Like Pynchon and Kafka, he was ahead of his time. His meta-fiction wasn't just for show and self-indulgence; the wink-wink and digressing were salient to the themes, and showcased the sophistry of righteous absolutes (and its contradictions). It was an intellectual frolic into the act of writing itself, with a tender touch of comic genius.

His latest and slim novel is also a linguistic romp, and resurrects some familiar subjects/settings, such as a love triangle, prostate troubles, and his beloved Eastern Shore of Maryland, specifically Stratford. Retired professor G.I. Newitt experiences some strange catastrophic flukes associated with a series of visions. He is subsequently inspired to chronicle these seasonal occurrences and phenomena, such as a "post-equinoctial vision" and a "solstitial illumination." The latest casualties include a tornado that wiped out the retirement community that he lived in with his wife (and muse), Amanda, and a fall on his 77th birthday in another Stratford--the one particular to the Bard. Newitt's efforts to pen his memoir is the central event, and he shares every daily outburst of desultory thought with Amanda.

I am surprised that this is the same author who wrote The Floating Opera. There was nothing here to tantalize beyond some lexical stretching. The narrative was self-conscious and obvious, like the protagonist's name. (G.I. Newitt is as blunt and prosaic as Seymour Butts.) The events, and the telling of them, were repetitive and dull, the narrative style antiquated and stilted. The most inspired was the title's allusion to Prospero's lines in The Tempest.
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