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John Barth: The End of the Road

This book is now combined with The Floating Opera in, as they say, one convenient package, though they are different, sharing only Barth’s cynicism. Jacob Horner is a teacher of prescriptive grammar (sic) at Wicomico State Teachers College. (Wicomico really does exist – it is a county in Maryland.) Most of it reminds me of the standard academic novel. You know the plot. New (single) male (they’re always male) teacher arrives at backwater college. Has affair with colleague’s wife. Author muses on meaning of life and a couple of other things that MEAN SOMETHING, generally in a witty, often cynical manner. Oh, and he teaches the hicks, showing interest only in the breasts of the more attractive female students. Horner might be a bit more than the ordinary hero of this type, as he manages to cause more damage to people’s lives, including, but by no means limited to, the married woman he has an affair with and her husband. At the end he leaves town, unsure of where he is going. The academic novel is a whole new genre of the twentieth century and if you ever needed a reason not to go to college, read this one or any number of similar ones scattered around these pages. And be glad you are not an academic.

Publishing history

First published 1958 by Doubleday