Thursday, September 02, 2004


In the last years of the seventeenth century there was to be found amon the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet mor talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun toto game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth withe Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping point.

This is the first paragraph of John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor, an 800 page behemoth of a novel that no one reads much anymore. This is a shame for a more gleaming 800 pages of English fiction the reader is unlikely to run across. I read it, along with A Passage to India, dduring a brief, melodramatic stay in the psyciatric ward of a University Hospital. These two novels saved my life, providing virtually all the pleasure I was to enjoy in that sorry month.

mister nouse


At January 13, 2006 at 1:51 PM, Anonymous Marlon F said...

Sot-Weed is my favorite novel. My sister-in-law was nice enough to find me a hard cover edition as a Christmas present, and I'm reading it again after 30 years.

Anyone who loves the English language and isn't offended by the notion of moral relatively should seek the book out. It is a unique joy.

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