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The Tidewater Tales (Maryland Paperback Bookshelf) Paperback – February 15, 1997
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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.
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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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. Like the age-old games from which his writings spring (the quest/redemption stories of the Iliad and Oddessy, the "doomed" prophet stories of the Old and New Testaments, the mistaken identity games of Shakespeare and thousands of authors since, and the metaphor of story as voyage and voyage as growth from Chaucer, 1001 Nights, etc), Barth plays his games to remind us that the act of story telling *is* the experience, it *is* the reason we read: the experience of hearing ghost stories around the camp fire remains with us long long after we have forgotten the actual story.
And then I remember that, as a reader, I have no more "right" to expect neatness and closure in a Barth story than I have the right to expect neatness and closure in my own life. Try as we might, our own work, our own story is always in progress. And like Barth's beloved Tidewater, the ebb and flow of our own story defies our attempt to capture to master it.
In the end, life and Barth's stories remain as delightfully cleansing as the tide itself.