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The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)
af John Barth
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Torchlight List (#74)
This is Barth's most distinguished masterpiece. This modern classic is a hilarious tribute to all the most insidious human vices, with a hero who is "one of the most diverting . . . to roam the world since Candide." "A feast. Dense, funny, endlessly inventive (and, OK, yes, long-winded) this satire of the eighteenth-century picaresque novel--think Fielding's Tom Jones or Sterne's Tristram Shandy--is also an earnest picture of the pitfalls awaiting innocence as it makes its unsteady way in the world. It's the late seventeenth century and Ebenezer Cooke is a poet, dutiful son and determined virgin who travels from England to Maryland to take possession of his father's tobacco (or "sot weed") plantation. He is also eventually given to believe that he has been commissioned by the third Lord Baltimore to write an epic poem, The Marylandiad. But things are not always what they seem. Actually, things are almost never what they seem. Not since Candide has a steadfast soul witnessed so many strange scenes or faced so many perils. Pirates, Indians, shrewd prostitutes, armed insurrectionists--Cooke endures them all, plus assaults on his virginity from both women and men. Barth's language is impossibly rich, a wickedly funny take on old English rhetoric and American self-appraisals. For good measure he throws in stories within stories, including the funniest retelling of the Pocahontas tale--revealed to us in the 'secret' journals of Capt. John Smith--that anyone has ever dared to tell." --Time
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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