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Where Three Roads Meet: Novellas (.) Hardcover – November 21, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: .
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (November 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618610162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618610167
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Teller, tale, torrid (and torpid) inspiration: Barth's 17th book brings these three narrative "roads" together inimitably, and thrice. It employs all of his familiar devices—alliteration, shifts in diction and time, puns ("Leda lays egg, Egg hatches Helen, Helen lays Paris, Paris lays waste to Troy")—to tease and titillate, while at the same time articulate—obliquely, sadly, angrily, gloriously—a farewell to language and its objects: us. The first of three lightly linked novellas, "Tell Me," introduces the three Freds: Alfred, Winifred and Wilfred, post-WWII collegemates who play jazz together, talk frankly and joustingly into the night, and form two alternating pas de deux. One particular set of exchanges sets the course of Wilfred's career; the whole story is a look back by him, a near lifetime later, at the before and after of that moment. The second piece, "I've Been Told," presents a hero's tale that speaks in the first person (the story itself is the narrator)—"that story c'est moi guys, and here's how I go, now that I've got myself cranked up and more or less under way"—and puns endlessly. (It also has Freds). The third, "As I Was Saying," uses the title's participle to riff on writing's eroticism: its three sisters, unreliable narrators all, use a Krapp's Last Tape–type conceit to tell of the sexual maelstrom of their adult lives, within which an infamous, Barthian novelist (Manfred F. Dickson Sr.) wrote. Wrote?The story ends in a mix of the past, present and future progressive: "As I was saying..." (Nov. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In these three novellas, the irreverent master of verbal pyrotechnics shows off his literary chops; indulges in his obsessions with the heroic archetype, the number three, and the letter Y; engages in a good deal of truly funny self-mockery; and anticipates and undercuts readers' reactions to his writing. He also seems highly amused at his own ability to try his readers' patience to the breaking point. The first novella, "Tell Me," concerns a menage a trois among undergraduates, one of whom is an author in the making, during the 1950s; bandmates and lovers of the arts, the three engage in lively wordplay and erotic adventures. In "I've Been Told," the "Wandering Hero" ("you can just call me Fred") exhibits symptoms of "encroaching old--fartity" as he discusses the purposes of storytelling and thumbs his nose at his "sweetly disappointed but dramaturgically fulfilled savvy Readers." In "As I Was Saying . . . ," a disgraced writer's three muses are revealed to be a trio of randy sisters who earned their college tuition by working as prostitutes. The novellas are aimed squarely at Barth devotees; the rest of us, befuddled and bemused, can only shake our heads at an old wisenheimer who seems to be laughing up his sleeve. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard K. Weems on February 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
John Barth inspires in me the classic kind of love-hate relationship. I have read every one of his books and berate him mercilessly when I think his efforts are misguided or redundant (_Sabbatical_, _Letters_, _The Book of Ten Nights and a Night_), but praise his best works and consider the best of his best among the annals that the future will look at when assessing the art of our present writing (_Chimera_, _The Sot-Weed Factor_, _The Tidewater Tales_, _Lost in the Funhouse_). He is on my suggested reading list for only the brightest of my students, and next to the writer whose name is an extension of his (Barthelme) will be known as one of those who not only changed the expectation of fiction, but extended our literary heritage in the best way, connecting us solidly to Homer and Twain while being truly contemporary.

This book is a harking back to the spirited Barth, the Barth who last reared his godhead in _The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor_, but had to subsist a while on a few middling efforts (_Once Upon a Time_, _On With the Story_ and _Coming Soon!_) until this latest go. _Where Three Roads Meet_ is full of unapologetic bawd and classic pun-istry, but while his lukewarm efforts feel just that (style covering over an inadequate tale), this new book is back to digging into the art of storytelling and finding its latest incarnation, an incarnation that is fresh and new and reflecting on the impossibility of storytelling in the face of life.

At first glance, this may seem to be an attempt to recapture the glory days of _Chimera_, as that stunning book too was of three novellas, but while also Greekmythed in nature, _Where Three Roads Meet_ poses more modern characters than the mythical heroes retold in the earlier National Book Award winner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Golding on April 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few readers are indifferent to the works of John Barth. Most either love or hate them. For myself, I freely admit to being a Barth lover. The best of his books--"Chimera", "Giles Goat-Boy", "Lost In The Funhouse" and one or two others--are joys to read. True, he has let us down a bit lately, but in "Where 3 Roads Meet" the old master has come roaring back.

I will not try to describe the plot. The Publishers Weekly review (above) has has done that very nicely. I will say that the book is a Barthean mixture of puns, word-play, down-to-earth bawdiness and scholarly erudition that never failed to entertain even as it delved into such serious matters as the heroic cycle and the mysteries of story creation.

It isn't often that a serious literary work can also be good (sometimes not so clean) fun. But this book has pulled it off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yan Timanovsky on January 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Where Three Roads Meet will appeal to the most ardent Barth fans. If you love deconstructing a story more than reading one, you'll love this one. Actually, it's 3 stories, each more stripped of narrative structure than the last, and all meeting each other, of course. Barth is clearly having fun with the reader as much as he is with his characters. And his constants, of course--the Mid-Atlantic, college and academia, the middle class, the Cold War, etc.

More of a lit theory companion piece than anything else, Where Three Roads Meet has the author in command of a genre he himself has more or less created. Barth is like a magician performing old tricks with more dexterity than ever to a familiar audience. Full of puns, wordplay, and none-too-abstruse symbolism, the book strolls along with flirtatious self-analyzing flourishes and self-congratulatory élan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was skeptical when I first ordered the book at the low asking price, but was very happy upon receiving it! The book was everything I hoped for, including being literally in brand new shape.
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