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The Floating Opera and The End of the Road Paperback – March 11, 1997
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Top Customer Reviews
The Floating Opera serves as an excellent introduction to the body of work of one of the 20th century's greatest writers (time will tell), and also stands on its own as an engrossing, amusing, thought-provoking tale. It establishes many of Barth's common themes and settings: the flawed, cynical (yet also fun-loving) protagonist; impossible quests; the absurdities of society's structures and laws; philosophy and morality; coastal Maryland and boating on the Chesapeake. Barth's later works are longer and much more intricate, so TFO is very much like Beethoven's first symphony: a simpler work than his later masterpieces, but which still shows definite signs of genius, originality, and timelessness.
The storyline, like Barth's other works, is quirky and highly original. It describes the lead-up to an event that, because of the way the book was written (in the first person), the reader knows cannot have taken place. Barth openly explains the disjointed nature of the book's structure (which is just one way that the floating opera of the title is important to the story), and everything holds together in the end.
TFO's protagonist, Todd Andrews, is a lawyer who has developed a detached, cynical view of the world. His mentality is perfect for his profession, and he wins his cases by crafting intricate technical loopholes that reduce his cases to absurdities. Thirty-five years before the Johnnie Cochran's poetic words in the O.J.Read more ›
Both The Floating Opera and The End of the Road concern love triangles of sorts, but each is developed in quite a different manner. While The Floating Opera is funny and rather light, The End of the Road is black comedy of the highest order, and in my opinion at least, it is the far superior book. I think it showcases Barth's genius in marvelous ways, with characterization and dialogue being two of the best. In both books, however, Barth is so dead-on with his artifice and eccentricity that we have to laugh at our own recognition of ourselves, reflected in his twisted characters and their strange goings-on.
In both books, Barth's characters seem to be searching for something, though what they are searching for is not made exactly clear. It could be good vs. evil, love vs. hate, war vs. peace, yet ultimately, after each character becomes ensnared in a mesh of confusion and confabulation from which he or she seems unable to extricate himself, the search is narrowed to the simple meaning of existence (or non-existence as the case may be). There are no absolutes in either book, making them all the more confusing for some, but all the more enjoyable for others.
Barth, himself, seems to be an author whose message is simple--the world is going straight to hell and we are going with it, so why not have a laugh on ourselves now and then? There really isn't much else to do.Read more ›
The End of the Road is one tough little book. It is a simple story that could have been pure empty soap opera but instead manages to rise above its material and carries quite a punch. Much more deserving of being read than most of Barth's later work.
American! Read ALL his books--they're fantastic!!!
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Complicated. Fascinating. Thought-provoking. I have adored these works since my university days in the mid-eighties. This edition is very convenient for traveling.Published 6 months ago by Kitt McComb
These two novels are Barth's first, never published until after the success of Gile's Goat Boy; unfortunate because these are excellent works of fiction.Published 6 months ago by Cliff Sutherland
john barth lets his readers know early on that life is a floating opera.Published 14 months ago by aud
John Barth is a must read for anyone interested in great American literature and a rollicking good read.Published 21 months ago by honeybunch
The Floating Opera is nimble, surprising, and satisfying as only the work of a highly intelligent novelist could be.Published on July 30, 2014 by Philippe Dambournet
Magnificent writing. Style, pace, wit. Holds your interest. And he was just 24 when he published it. I recommend it.Published on May 14, 2014 by alvaro lacunza
Excellent characterization with accurate and evocative context of the local setting. This was my introduction to an author I have unintentionally ignored.Published on December 13, 2013 by Michael Kirkland
These were the first two books that introduced me to Barth. You can get better summaries in the other reviews, But I will discuss a few notable things here. Read morePublished on August 4, 2012 by Crank