Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The End of the Road, John Barth, Doubleday & Company, 1958, 188 pp

Barth wrote this second novel as a companion to his first, The Floating Opera. Again he investigates marriage and infidelity, but while in The Floating Opera almost all was felicitous, The End of the Road is dark and rests on catastrophe.

Jacob Horner, the main character and narrator, could be straight from a Patricia Highsmith story. Amoral, self-centered and borderline psychopathic, he is under treatment by an eccentric and experimental psychiatrist, probably unlicensed, who is mainly interested in testing his offbeat theories.

Under doctor's orders, Jacob, who is suffering from "immobility," takes a teaching position at a State Teachers College and soon enters into a relationship with a colleague's wife. Thereby ensues a downward spiral in which the wife and husband are inexorably sucked into Jacob's toxic troubles.

Entertaining, disturbing, humorous at times, and fascinating in a compulsive, can't-stop-looking way, the book made me feel I was in the clutches of a frightening intelligence. Next for this author is the somewhat infamous Sot-Weed Factor. Oh my.

(The End of the Road is available in paperback which also includes The Floating Opera by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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