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The End of the Road Unknown Binding – 1958


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (1958)
  • ASIN: B001OY53LW
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By cs211 on June 27, 2004
Format: Unknown Binding Verified Purchase
"The End of the Road" shares a central plot element (a love triangle) with Barth's first novel, "The Floating Opera", but in TEOTR the relationship is about as far from consensual as can be, and as a result TEOTR is a very different, even more powerful story. Barth crams a lot of substance into TEOTR, and it succeeds on multiple levels: as a compelling story with much for the reader to ponder, as a political statement (John Irving appears to me to have been inspired by the ending of TEOTR in his acclaimed "Cider House Rules"), and as applied philosophy, with religious undertones.
"In a sense, I am Jacob Horner," states Jacob Horner, the Barthian hero/anti-hero of TEOTR, at the very beginning of the story, but who is Jacob Horner (or whom does he represent)? Jacob Horner may represent the ultimate modern man, a person who rejects objective, absolute truths in favor of relativism, and who is so imbued with knowledge that he can see all sides of any argument, contradiction or paradox. At times Horner is completely paralyzed from acting, and at almost all other times his actions are timid to the extreme, such that he relies on "the Doctor", who prescribes nonsensical therapies to get Horner to take action, any action. Horner's thought process has many parallels in today's society, especially leaders who can't make up their minds and waffle on the issues. Horner suggests he may be the devil, but his logical thought process (his ability to see and accept opposite qualities in others, as in a love/hate relationship) suggests the "shades of gray", fuzzy logic thinking prevalent at all levels of modern society.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on December 13, 2002
Format: Unknown Binding
When you pick the book up you think to yourself, "There's no way this is John Barth" after all after holding the book for several minutes, your muscles aren't aching at all from the weight. Heck the novel is almost pocket sized. Yes, kids, early on Barth was reasonable concise in length (not that I don't like his longer stuff), at least for his first two novels (I think his third was the Sot-Weed Factor) so this makes a good place for novices lacking the stamina to jump right in. And actually for a first effort this is remarkably good and remarkably daring, considering that it was published in the late fifties. It's the story of Jake Horner, a young guy recently hired to teach grammar at a small college, and the infidelity he gets involved in with one of the other professor's wives and what happens because of that. The fairly standard story is completely changed by Horner's narration though. Cynical and uncaring, but somehow oddly admirable, Barth manages to make him seem almost likeable, even when his behavior verges on being that of a total monster (emotionally at least). His verbal sparring with his fellow professor Joe, who's outlook on life is equally extreme as Horner's is nonexistant (you could probably make a case and say that the story is existential in nature but I don't know enough about the philosophy to say for sure). But while the story remains at its heart a tale of infidelity, toward the end it takes a decidedly dark turn as Barth shows that everything has consequences. If the tone and nature of the story was daring for its time, its unsparingly frank view of abortion must have been absolutely shocking and even today is probably enough to turn people off. It shouldn't. While not his best book, it shows a master beginning to stretch his muscles (or at least realize he had muscles to stretch) and announced the entrance of a new literary talent with a voice that could be both uproariously funny and starkly grim all in the same story.
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By M. Buzalka on July 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
My problem with John Barth's second novel, The End of the Road, is that all three main characters are so unsympathetic that reading it felt more like a clinical exercise than an emotional experience. The book describes the relationship of three people involved in a kind of menage a trios. The narrator, Jacob Horner becomes involved with Rennie, the wife of his teaching colleague Joe Morgan at a fictional backwater teachers college in Maryland, and bad consequences follow for all concerned.

Both Horner and Morgan spend most of their time dissecting their own feelings and actions as if they were lab rats experimenting on themselves. Horner, who seems to suffer fits of cataleptic seizure, probably brought on by his extremely disengaged attitude to life, meanders into the affair encouraged by Morgan, to whom his marriage isn't so much a relationship as a science experiment. Meanwhile, Rennie is a woman destined for emotional abuse by dint of temperament, so she's the perfect object of usage for two such creeps. She wasn't sympathetic so much as pathetic.

The most sympathetic character (aside from Morgan's two kids, God help them…) is Peggy Rankin, a 40-something woman desperately looking for love in all the wrong places (especially Horner's arms).

I guess the novel succeeds on its own terms, and Barth is clearly an excellent writer, but it left me cold.
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Format: Unknown Binding
I read it in 2007, i.e. more than 30 years after it was written, so it somehow may seem dated.
But the style is nice, peculiar, sometimes even funny and the issues must have been very hard and unheard in those times, so my advice is:
read it.
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