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Wading Through Sot-Weeds January 8, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
32 comments

My favorite thing about writing is its complete and utter autonomy:

* My book.
* My rules.
* My choice of characters.

Anyone who writes a book, play, or screenplay gets to choose the world, the setting, the time period, and the people populating center stage.

That said, readers do have a voice.

When following the threads of a story, I enjoy a sense of continuity.  Imagery and poetry in perpetuity are not enough for me.  I need something to hang my hat on or my attention wanes.

“Sot-Weed Factor” fan
proclaims it ~ “the best English
written novel yet”

Hopes high, I dove deep
where obscure digressions and
parodies parade

Wading through Sot-Weeds
grew cruelly tiresome, I
turned to other worlds

Reading a voluminous tome or treatise filled with esoteric references holds little appeal . . . when the whole forest is out there waiting to be explored.

That’s my favorite thing about reading ~ the complete and utter autonomy to choose whether to remain in an author’s audience or turn to other words and other worlds.

Aah . . . that’s better!

While writing this post, I learned I’m not alone in my unwillingness to wade through Barth’s laborious labors:

“John Barth’s “The Sot-Weed Factor” is a brilliantly specialized performance, so monstrously long that reading it seemed nearly as laborious as writing it. Obviously Barth (author previous of “The End of the Road” and “The Floating Opera”) believed he needed these approximately 500,000 words to achieve his effects. Few will agree with him, for though he abounds in excellent satirical devices he is addicted to repeating them.”

* * *

“Though it is not for all palates, it is possible that Barth’s book may be cherished by its true audience for some time to come.”

Fuller, Edmond, “The Joke is on Mankind,” NY Times, August 21, 1960.

Have you read The Sot-Weed Factor?  

Did you consume its 500,000 words in one gulp or spit it out before digesting its divergent digressions?

Related posts:  The Clean (Book)Plate Club *  Andrew Zimmern’s Picks Don’t Appeal