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

4.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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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.


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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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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,081,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel is centered on the Chesapeake Bay in the late twentieth century; Barth is a delight to read strictly on the level of wordsmith, as well as for his surprising combinations of time and characters. Who would expect to find Odysseus, Don Quixote, Scheherazade, and Huck Finn as characters in the same book with the CIA and a blocked post-modernist writer sailing around the Chesapeake with his very pregnant wife? I understand that this book is about, among other things, storytelling and the writer's craft (which goes far deeper than my level of knowledge) but that is compensated by Barth's wit and wordplay. The evil of secretive contemporary world power politics is an unsettling background for the simpler human stories of love and striving for self-realization. Time travel and the immortality of the iconic literary characters contrasts with danger and mysterious deaths on the Chesapeake. The Chesapeake itself is a complex character, made up of workingclass backwater villages and the compounds of the uber-wealthy with their luxurious yachts, where nomadic "boat-people" drift through, and weather suddenly shifts from blissful to deadly storms. Because the themes are so "big" that they smack of trite, and the storyline so complicated and meandering that it ceases to matter finally, the joy of this book, to me, is the pure pleasure of the wordcraft.
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