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The Tidewater Tales (Maryland Paperback Bookshelf) Paperback – February 15, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: Maryland Paperback Bookshelf
  • Paperback: 655 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Maryland paperback bookshelf ed edition (February 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080185556X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801855566
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,684,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Peter Sagamore, novelist, has come down with a bad case of minimalism. Ruthless self-editing leaves him with works only a few words in length, and no readers. His wife is a "maximalist" oral historian with an MLS. In June 1980 they spend two weeks sailing around Chesapeake Bay in their boat Story, telling stories. The result is familiar Barthean fare: "lost episodes" of the Odyssey, the Arabian Nights, and Don Quixote interspersed with lectures on Maryland history, the CIA, and toxic waste. (Librarians will wince at the incoherent review of cataloging procedures on Day 5.) A strong addition to the Barth canon, Tidewater Tales is probably the only piece of experimental fiction that can double as summer beach reading. An essential purchase for all collections of contemporary literature. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Marymount Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Charting ever more daring fictional waters, John Barth here sets sail on a huge voyage of a book—part myth, part fantasy, part history, part sheer exuberant wordplay.

(Washington Post Book World)

What is so moving about The Tidewater Tales is its frequent and frequently incidental richness as a love story—marital, filial, domestic—and also in its love of a place, of a country, even as place and country are scarred by depredation.The newest edition of the most complete introduction to the vital security issues facing the United States returns to the book's classic organizational format.

(William Pritchard New York Times Book Review)

The Tidewater Tales takes the form of a narrative encyclopedia, a pre-natal crash course in the politics, social life, literature, history, and mythology of late-twentieth century America... It sits... on the map of modern American fiction as a gigantic memorable construction.

(Jonathan Raban Times Literary Supplement)

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Customer Reviews

Wonderfully imaginative and especially well crafted piece of literary fiction.
Amazon Customer
Just stay away if you're allergic to mythology, if you want to read Barth it's not something you can easily escape from.
Michael Battaglia
It's about rather dull people doing rather dull things and telling rather dull stories.
C. Morse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1996
Format: Paperback
I suppose it is inevitable that, as the post-war boomers approach the big six-zero over the next decade, we will see a tidal flood of tender, soul-searching narratives. Boomers want to understand rather than simply experience life, and most have been frustrated by life's refusal to obey our expectations.

John Barth seems to have made such soul searching his life work, and I seem to have followed him book for book, life experience by life experience over the years.
A clever "academic" writer (read: "he writes like a dream but his wit sometimes overwhelms the story"), Barth has addressed boomer experience and frailty .

Seeming to be five to ten years ahead of boomers, his books have ranged from the tragedy resulting from a terribly botched abortion (long before we openly spoke of this horror), through the visionary and usually misguided quest of the idealist (Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goatboy), the terrible pain of realizing one is an adult (the clever but exhausting Letters), to more leisurely and accessible mid-life reassessment as protagonists take "voyages" on the emotional seascape of middle age (Sabbatical, Tidewater Tales, Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, Once upon a Time...).

Each five years or so, I eagerly await his newest offering, devour it, and then feel frustrated when his literary games seem to detract from his story.
But, then, each time I realize (as if for the first time), the essential nature of his writing.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on October 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Of the maybe five novels of Barth I've read so far in my young life, this is probably my favorite of them all (Sot-Weed Factor does run a close second, however) if only due to the laziness factor since I didn't feel I needed a doctorate in English literature or mythology to understand everything that was going on. All told, on the surface this is probably one of the lighter books he's done . . . it's basically about a couple (teh wife's eight months pregnant) going out sailing in Cheaspeake Bay and to pass time they start telling stories. Except it's about everything else too and slowly the novel starts to incorporate local history, the knots of the characters' lives, mythology, plays, short stories . . . you name it. For someone not of Barth's skill this would come off as a tedious academic exercise merely to show the author's genre bending abilities. Once in a while it teeters toward that but manages to stay on the right side of the line. What helps is the sheer exuburance of the book, the people all seem to like each other (not that there isn't conflict), folks are happy with their lives, never before has Barth managed to create a more three dimensional set of people or given them a more realistic world to inhabit. It's just genuinely enjoyable to read, especially as the stories and stories-within-stories start to bounce off each othere. There are echoes of several of Barth's earlier works here, I spotted definitely Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera (and the Sot-Weed Factor is mentioned) so for long time readers it's a bit of a revisit with old friends. Is the book probably longer than it needs to be? Yeah, but if long books are your problem than you shouldn't be reading Barth.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By surfer461 on March 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Set me a task indeed! It has become the catch phrase my wife and I use to pull ourselves out of a funk... and reading this book will pull just about anyone out of theirs. Following Peter and Kate's sailing adventure over the course of the last 14 days of their pregnancy (with twins) is a celebration of life. Don't be daunted by it's length! It's like reading multiple books in one: a travel book, a play, throw a little espionage and environmentalism into the pot and meet some of literature's greatest characters along the way. Get through the first 50 pages, then sit back and enjoy the ride. By the end you'll find that you just don't want it to end.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I'm 5 pages from the end of this book, but I'm postponing reading them because I just don't want it to end. Like The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, this book is escapism at its most extreme.
The framing is phenomenal, mirror images abound, pairs proliferate, and while things constantly remain at the edge of confusion, Barth always reins you in just before you teeter off into chaos. So deft with words, and even more so with their meanings, Barth has written what is quite possibly my favorite book of all time.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Morse on June 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I can see that this book has deeply touched the lives of several reviewers, and I mean them no disrespect; but I do feel that this page could use some balance. I simply could not dig my way through this incredibly long and meandering novel. After 80 pages I skipped ahead, read a couple pages, skipped ahead, read more, skipped ahead again. Not a lot happens. Nothing memorable is said. I encountered no moving episodes. Nothing I could call funny, or exciting. It's about rather dull people doing rather dull things and telling rather dull stories. All written with remarkable skill and flair, admittedly, but skill and flair aren't nearly enough to keep a reader engaged for over a quarter-million words.

I recommend this book to the hopelessly literary. If your idea of great fun is to get together with friends over wine and cheese and discuss James Joyce's Ulysses long into the night, you'll love The Tidewater Tales. The rest of us are advised to seek reading pleasure elsewhere.
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