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Lost in the Funhouse (The Anchor Literary Library) Paperback – March 1, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Barth's lively, highly original collection of short pieces is a major landmark of experimental fiction. Though many of the stories gathered here were published separately, there are several themes common to them all, giving them new meaning in the context of this collection.

From the Inside Flap

Barth's lively, highly original collection of short pieces is a major landmark of experimental fiction.  Though many of the stories gathered here were published separately, there are several themes common to them all, giving them new meaning in the context of this collection.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Anchor Literary Library
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (March 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385240872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385240871
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon on June 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Lost in the Funhouse can be a very bewildering and irritating collection if you aren't in the right mood for it. If you aren't well-versed in post-modern fiction (barthelme, calvino, etc are good reference points) you might want to start somewhere else first. Even Barth's novels are more immediately digestible.

With that said, though, this collection doesn't really operate on one consistent level. Perhaps this is because many of these stories were written by Barth much earlier in his career. The three stories concerning Ambrose's birth and development are very straightforward and enjoyable on a surface level until the whole series goes flying into left-field with the titular "Lost in the Funhouse" story (which Barth is probably most known for). From that point on, most of the stories are more about the process of writing and the relationship between the reader, writer, and the characters. Stories like "Title" and "Life-Story" work more as essays on the nature of fiction than actual works of fiction, and were (for me at least) a little tedious. The best moments occur when Barth combines his thoughful analysis on the nature of writing and art with a really good ground-situation, typically based on Greek mythology. The best of these are the utterly raunchy "Petitition" and the labyrinthine "Menelaiad".

Taken as a whole, though, Lost in the Funhouse is greatly satisfying, even if (like me) you really only understood about 20% of what Barth was talking about on your first read-through. It's the sort of book I'll go back to again and again to try and delve deeper into the mystery of the funhouse while appreciating all over the hilarious bawdy humor.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on October 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
In his introduction to this collection of tales, John Barth warns that writing shorting stories isn't his strong suit; he'd rather write novels. Well, I thought, you don't have to read the goat entrails to see this isn't an auspicious augur since *reading* short stories isn't my mine; I prefer novels. Could it be worse? As writer and reader we were perfectly matched: that is, perfectly wrong for each other. What a surprise then! Turns out either writer and/or reader were both happily mistaken and/or correct yet fortuitously found the slim exception to the rule. *Lost in the Funhouse* is a remarkable book--a stunning sampling of erudition, wit, originality, and linguistic pyrotechnics of such deft complexity I dare you not to get lost at least half a dozen times and I double-dare you not to laugh out loud at least as many.

Be forewarned: these aren't the O Henry! type short stories of your grandpappy's day--the kind with clear-cut beginnings, waistlines, and back ends. They aren't cluttered with all those moth-ridden, mold-covered boxes of conceptual costumes from the prehistory of narrative: stuff like character, conflict, setting, dramatic progression, etc. If you're looking for Hemingway or Steinbeck, read Hemingway or Steinbeck. There are characters in Barth's fiction--"voices" properly speaking--but who are they, who are you, who is the author? There is a setting--but exactly where is it, where is anything, are we only *just* imagining it all? There is a story, of sorts--but it's fractured, inconsistent, starts somewhere, progresses a while and could end, like life, like this sentence, at any time, anywhere.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1996
Format: Paperback
In his story, "The Immortal," Jorge Luis Borges describes a
labyrinth as "a structure compounded to confuse men; its
architecture, rich in symmetries, is subordinated to that end."*
Similarly, the stories of Barth's collection _Lost in the Funhouse_,
present a labyrinth of narrative fiction, in their exploration
of the story as medium, voice, and tool of the magician. The
fourteen stories, reflecting Barth's idea of a narrative as
a structure, take the varied forms of Mobius strip, letter,
autobiography, and tale; what makes for additional complexity,
is the insistence by each of the stories' characters (who include
a siamese twin, heroes of the Odyssey,and an abandoned court
minstrel) to have his or her say. Inherent in this is Barth's
insistence on the infinite number of possible constructions
of a narrative, which stun the reader through his descriptions,
plot lines (knots, in some cases), and ideas. Read _Lost
in the Funhouse_ to witness Barth's magic, and to be reminded
of the combined power of voice and language, storytelling.

*(Jorge Luis Borges, "The Immortal," _Labyrinths_: New Directions
Books, 1962.)
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By Fast Food Blogger on February 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
Lost in the Funhouse is a fearless short story collection where subject matter is constantly inverted from the norm and readers are meant to be teased. The mundane becomes the epic and the epic becomes the mundane. Narrators are often comically self-conciousness, supposedly bored with their work, and yet, occasionally boastful. Of course, every boast is appropriately paired with the sting of hilarious self-deprication. John Barth is clearly having a great time, and it is the reader who really benefits.

Ultimately, Lost in the Funhouse is a literary master's hall of mirrors on paper and a Metafictions "R" Us, but for some that means it will be a confusing 200 page hike. Are you well versed in greek mythology? Are you a close reader? A fan of literary puzzles? Like stories about telling stories? Willing to put up with intentional obscurity? If not, try something else. For many who aren't well versed in all of the minor details (like me), Barth's playfulness and skill will make up for any confusion. But it's not for everyone, and Barth is well aware of that. I loved it. Maybe you will too.
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