Read The End Of The Road by John Barth Online


Its first-person protagonist, Jacob Horner, suffers from nihilistic paralysis: an inability to choose a course of action. As part of a schedule of unorthodox therapies, Horner's nameless Doctor has him take a teaching job at a local teachers college. There Horner befriends the super-rational existentialist Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie, with whom he becomes entangled in aIts first-person protagonist, Jacob Horner, suffers from nihilistic paralysis: an inability to choose a course of action. As part of a schedule of unorthodox therapies, Horner's nameless Doctor has him take a teaching job at a local teachers college. There Horner befriends the super-rational existentialist Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie, with whom he becomes entangled in a love triangle, with tragic results. The book deals with several issues that were controversial at the time, including racial segregation and abortion. (from wikipedia)...

Title : The End Of The Road
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ISBN : 9780553125160
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 198 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The End Of The Road Reviews

  • Ian
    2018-10-11 09:37

    The Existence of Metaphysics Precedes the Essence of MetafictionBarth’s second novel, "The End of the Road" ("TEOTR"), is now usually packaged as part of one volume with his first novel, "The Floating Opera".In the introduction to the package, Barth gives the impression that "TEOTR" is the lesser of the two, and that both are inferior to his later, more metafictional works. However, there is much of value in both works and especially in "TEOTR".It's a deeply philosophical novel. However, what appeals to me is Barth's ability to examine profound philosophical issues within what is ostensibly a realist fictional construction, even if it betrays an occasional black sense of humour or sense of the absurdity of the cosmos.At the most abstract level, the plot encompasses a grab bag of existential and/or existentialist issues: life, being, nothingness, the abyss, choice, indecision, immobility, remobilisation, progress, advice, depression, treatment, inauthenticity, bad faith, deception, infidelity, adultery, a gun, nausea, abortion and death.Yet, Barth pulls all of these together into a novel that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.A Cosmopsist NarratorThe first person narrator is Jacob (Jake) Horner. Sometimes I wondered whether he was supposed to be Little Jack Horner. Others, at a glance, "Horner" looked like "Homer". His therapist, perhaps an alter ego, remains anonymous, and is known only as "the Doctor".From the Doctor, he learns that "In a sense, I am Jacob Horner."As with "The Floating Opera", the narrator falls into a triangular relationship with a married couple, Joe and Rennie Morgan.An English teacher (grammar), Jake describes himself as a "placid-depressive":"My lows were low, but my highs were middle-register."He's afflicted with a cosmic malady Barth calls "cosmopsis":"When one has it, one is frozen like the bullfrog when the hunter's light strikes him full in the eyes, only with cosmopsis there is no hunter, and no quick hand to terminate the moment - there's only the light."Jake is unable to make choices, he freezes, becomes paralysed, immobilised, when confronted with a decision. It's as if he is continually standing at the abyss, suspecting that it's all absurd.A Rational BeingIn contrast, Joe's life is driven by logic and what is rationally justifiable:"I can always explain what I do or say."At the same time, he's an individualist. While he purports to be objective, he is still essentially subjective:"In my ethics the most a man can ever do is be right from his point of view...he's got to expect conflict with people or institutions who are also right from their points of view, but those points of view are different from his."He's not interested in ostensibly absolute values like the greater good or the good of the state: "four things I'm not impressed by are unity, harmony, eternality and universality."Of all of the characters in the novel, he's the one most capable of making a decision when confronted by a situation. However, his thought processes are so rational that they almost seem irrational from a personal or social point of view.Joe sees no inconsistency in his predicament:"...the more sophisticated your ethics get, the stronger you have to be to stay afloat. And when you say good-bye to objective values, you really have to flex your muscles and keep your eyes open, because you're on your own."It takes energy: not just personal energy, but cultural energy, or you're lost."Energy's what makes the difference between American pragmatism and French existentialism - where the hell else but in America could you have a cheerful nihilism, for God's sake?"A Self-Sufficient BeingRennie is self-sufficient, physically strong and private, by and large a common sense type of person, perhaps an authentic, real life, down to earth (non-philosophical) pragmatist. Yet all those around her seem to regard her with condescension and disdain. She comes across as devoid of an ego, "...but you think I'm a zero."Indeed, Jake treats all of those around him like pawns or cyphers in some absurdist cosmic game. All of the characters in the novel are, or are treated like, beings on the edge of nothingness.Apart from the Doctor, Rennie has the greatest insight into Jake's condition:"I think you don't exist at all. There's too many of you. It's more than just masks that you put on and take off - we all have masks. But you...cancel yourself out. You're like somebody in a dream. You're not strong and you're not weak. You're nothing."An Engagement with the DoctorThe other person who seems to have some insight into Jake's existential problem is the Doctor. He demonstrates his approach by asking how many seats there are in the Cleveland Municipal Stadium:"Logic will never give you the answer to my question. Only Knowledge of the World will answer it...The world is everything that is the case, and what the case is, is not a matter of logic...but if you have some Knowledge of the World, you may be able to say...[unlike logic,] no choice is involved."The Doctor elaborates in a way that takes this argument from its Wittgensteinian origins "The world is everything that is the case" to a Sartrean Existentialism ("human existence precedes human essence"):"Choosing is existence: to the extent that you don't choose, you don't exist. Now, everything we do must be oriented toward choice and action. It doesn't matter whether this action is more or less reasonable than inaction; the point is that it is its opposite [i.e., the opposite of inaction]."So the Doctor's therapy involves action, movement:"Above all, act impulsively: don't let yourself get stuck between alternatives, or you're lost...keep moving all the time. Be engagé. Join things...Say something! Move! Take a role!"The Doctor is not so much concerned with authenticity (whether or not in relation to some underlying essence), as motion rather than paralysis, mobility rather than immobility, engagement rather than disengagement.It’s a Shame about RennieThe first role Jake takes is a teaching position at the same institution where Joe teaches. The second involves an adulterous relationship with Rennie. In a way, the two males present her with a choice between Reason and Unreason. However, it's equally possible that Joe is just another double or alter ego that allows Jake to learn about himself.Rennie is the least satisfactorily drawn of the characters. She seems to be just a board upon which the metaphysical forces play out their game of cause and effect. Yet, she is the one who suffers most from the clash of these pseudo-titans.Towards a Therapeutic MythopoesisIf there is any flaw in the novel, it is that, for Jake, Rennie is just a minor character, a bit part in the film of his life.However, once again, the Doctor might have an explanation:"Not only are we the heroes of our own life stories - we're the ones who conceive the story, and give other people the essences of minor characters. But since no man's life story as a rule is ever one story with a coherent plot, we're always reconceiving just the sort of hero we are, and consequently just the sort of minor roles that other people are supposed to play..."This kind of role-assigning is myth-making, and when it's done consciously or unconsciously for the purpose of aggrandising or protecting your ego - and it's probably done for this purpose all the time - it becomes Mythotherapy..."Mythotherapy is based on two assumptions: that human existence precedes human essence...and that a man is free not only to choose his own essence but to change it at will."In a sense, we are what we make of ourselves (no matter what we make of others).The first task is to heal your Self, then you can take care of the Other(s).Beyond the End of the RoadUltimately, "TEOTR" documents Jake's course in Mythotherapy, leaving his ego functional enough one day to shave, dress, pack his bags and call a taxi. His destination? The "terminal”, at the end of the road, from which he can depart his old life and perhaps commence a journey on a new road to being both somewhere and someone else. Attractatus Barthicus Medico-Logico-Philosophicus1.1 The World is everything that is the case.1.2 What the case is, is not a matter of logic.1.3 Logic involves choice.1.3.1 A choice requires logic.1.4 Knowledge of the World does not require choice.1.4.1 Knowledge of the World does not require logic.1.5 Choosing is existence.1.5.1 To the extent that we don't choose, we don't exist.1.5.2 If we use logic, we exist.1.6 Action is a choice.1.6.1 Action is existence.1.6.2 If we act, we exist.1.7 Everything we do must be oriented toward choice and action.1.7.1 It doesn't matter whether any particular action is more or less reasonable than inaction.1.7.2 Action is the opposite of inaction.1.7.3 Inaction is not a choice.1.7.4 Inaction is the failure to make a choice.1.8 Inaction is nothingness.1.8.1 If we don't act, we don't exist.1.9 Don't get stuck between alternatives.1.9.1 Act logically.1.9.2 Act impulsively.1.9.3 Act the goat.

  • Nathan
    2018-10-05 10:37

    When The People speak, "N.R." listens. This Float which you are experiencing is an Honest Float. There is no cheek and, as Geoff will attest, the tongue is thoroughly chew'd through. On the other hand, I understand that the people (lower case) have already voted to abort this "R"e(re)view. So be it.So we should take our lead quoting Barth quoting a film critic when that critic declared that while the book ends with an abortion the film is an abortion from beginning to end (durchaus, thoroughly). I don’t think that makes sense. Because an abortion is aorist, not progressive nor enduring through time. But one would assume, the critic being clever, that his(er) intention was for the review reader to pick up upon the assonance of “abortion” with “abomination” and allow the free=mind do the reading. This would either be a good habit or a bad habit for a reader to have. This kind of of associational reading. It’s a really good thing to be in the habit of doing whilst Waking ; but it’s not typically so useful in The Daily World.At any rate. You’re probably screaming about that (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] up there about how the book ends with an abortion. Well, (aside from saying “screw you”) let me just point out that a) you already know that The End of the Road is a work of “existentialist” fiction and b) all existentialist fictions contain an abortion. Further, in 1958 all abortions (in fiction, in fiction) were traumatic enough (physically, psychically, socially, no matter) such that any fiction which would be somehow representing an abortion would have to center that abortion, either by putting it at the center or at the end. So the only thing I (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)]’ed for you was that the abortion came not at the center.The other thing about that whole nexus of abortion & existentialist fiction is that it’s structurally analogous to Christian Punk Bands. That is, if you are in a Christian Punk Band, you are obligated to have an anti-abortion song. Here’s one by a band I used to listen to quite hap’ly (I mean of course the band -- hate the song ; it’s like when Zappa comes along and slaps my working-class consciousness with yet another anti-union song. Just cringe.), by The Crucified..... sorry, couldn’t find it but since the same case obtains with Christian Metal, here’s Barren Cross’s Killers of the Unborn. Seriously -- Trigger Warning on that link because you’ve gotta believe me that even when I was knee deep into this Xian Music scene I always hated their politics -- I grew up in a pacificist/internationalist/anarchist household -- .... never mind ; this isn’t supposed to be about me. But the xian anti-abortion thing makes me as mad as it makes you. -- Once, at a christian music festival, I was imprisoned into listening to Christian Terrorists hold forth in a recruitment speech calling upon good christians to terrorize women. It was embarrassing (to say the very least ; me still being marginally adherent to the better parts of xianity).). So if you are an existentialist authoring fictions, you have to, somewhere, write about abortion. Or maybe that’s just my impression from having read an Abortion Dilemma once in a fiction by Sartre. But so then too the question rises about the rhetorical use of ‘abortion’ in a review of a film. It’s really kind of over-the-top? Is it cliche? I mean, aside from there actually being an abortion represented in the film under review, still and all... well, in this case it’s kind of clever. And the clever author (Barth) endorses this particular rhetorical flourish. I mean, it’s not quite as offensive (offending a sense of decency ;; I mean just common average everyday civilized cultured decency) as using ‘rape’ rhetorically. Which can probably be done. But it would likely, at the very least, make you squirm just a little. But the more important question of course is the War Over The Female Body which comes into play when Abortion becomes the token of the type, Ethical Dilemma ; which is about all that existentialist fiction is good for. And in this day and age, is it even very good for that? We have Virtue Ethics, I think, to thank for that -- that ethics can be thought as a way of being in the world rather than about a Choice which can be run through one of several Calculuses leading to a Decision of Action. That approach of course falsifies entirely our experience of actually bumping around in the world. So where was I? Abortion. Right. To get us up to speed, here’s some stats -- End of the Road is John Barth’s second novel ; so his first set of twins I call pre-Barth, not really being that Barth we know and love, but still pretty damn good. It is the only Barth=book of which a film has been made. For longtime it was unavailable to me, but thanks to the Corporate Entity we give money to, Netflix, I’ve seen it. It’s pretty bad. It’s got some nut=so kind of stuff in it that was kind of common as the typical anti-establishment kind of aesthetic of the time I guess, because there was something (superficial, for sure) resembling that one made of that one Gore Vidal book (which was equally bad?). Anyways, there’s some big names in here -- Stacy Keach, Harris Yulin, James Earl Jones (watch it for his thing alone!), Dorothy Tristan (not a big name to me -- ever hear of her? she’s the only female in this here film --; which kind of makes The Whole Abortion Dilemma little more than.... well, something or other, because clearly the Moral Dilemma is still a Male Dilemma in 1958/1970 ; it is the Female’s Role to merely (view spoiler)[die on the abortion table (hide spoiler)] -- that really is a spoiler. I understand.). At any rate, the movie was released in 1970 thusly relocated more solidly into the 1960’s than the book which could hardly have forescene the coming decade, although it probably kind of did, much like all fiction -- good fiction -- is written several years or several decades before its time. (do I need another close=parenthesis here?).So. In conclusion and wrapping this thing up by saying again not what was said above but what has been said before by Your Humble Film Criticalist, that The Best Reason to read Barth’s first set of Twin Novels is that they will prepare you for the Absolutely Wrawkus GoodTime which is his LETTERS. For which, the Not=Reading of, life is too short.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2018-10-13 09:53

    Does ‘existential’ have four syllables or five? How I wish I knew.

  • Frona
    2018-10-23 12:50

    The first quarter of this book was as good as the last was bad. I literally laughed out loud during the first two chapters, which is a state I don't often find myself in while reading. But then my enjoyment started to deteriorate until it reached the bottom with the introduction of THE GUN. Of course all existentialistic novels deal with death in some way or another, sooner or later, however to bring it up just like that, like nothing had happened, with a casual emergance of this silly object that just shows up and occupies all the minds of all the characters, is just too much. The little essence they haven't lost up until this point is gone and all that is left are the maneqines of author's copied philosophical ideas. I always hate when ideas become predominant and make the story itself unimportant and incoherent, yet it is rarely done in such a transparent way.

  • Stela
    2018-10-21 16:33

    When Existentialism is not a Humanism anymoreI’m still not sure whether it was a good thing to read The End of the Road immediately after The Floating Opera, even though they are often discussed together and the author himself decided to put them in one volume. Of course, there are some reasons for this decision: not only both novels illustrate the first stage in John Barth’s creation, but they have also some similar themes, motives and structure – existentialism, nihilism, suicide, adulterous triangle etc.However, the main difference, stressed by the author too in his useful Prologue (I admit using the adjective “useful” somehow deprecatorily for the readiness with which he offered his lecture key frustrated me a bit), is the change of tonality, difference that makes (in Barth’s words) “a nihilist comedy” of the first novel and “a nihilist catastrophe” of the second; moreover, it leads to the interpretation of a second theme (also generously revealed in the Prologue) – villainy (the author admits he was obsessed at the time with Shakespeare’s statement, “A man may smile and smile and be a villain.”). Both Todd Andrews and Jacob Horner’s villainy seems to be the result of some fundamental dissonance with humanity, and in the end they successfully severe (to employ Sartre’s terminology) existence from humanism, denying themselves as human beings due to their eerie quality of seeing the two sides of the coin at the same time, thus answering two of the main questions raised by Camus in his oeuvre: is suicide the only important philosophical theme and is human life so meaningless that the only weapon against it is supreme indifference? The first question, answered in The Floating Opera, is in Barth’s view, a variant of the second: neither suicide nor going on living is of any significance whatsoever in the great scheme of things. And the second one, with its own empty Meursault in leading role, as the embodiment of the absurd, takes estrangement to its outer limits. Interesting enough isn’t it? However, after the delightful and delighted reading of The Floating Opera, The End of the Road, orphan, in great measure, of the black humor that made the first so digestible, was sometimes intolerably grim, although here there is, again, the ironic interpretation of some Existentialist themes and values. One if the bearers is the ultra rationalist Joe Morgan, convinced that he has managed to dictate the meaning of his own life by creating his own values, values that may be not intrinsic but are nonetheless important (I remember Todd in the other novel discovering too the lack of intrinsic value of life, but with the following thought that because of this life itself was meaningless): “When Rennie and I were married we understood that neither of us wanted to make a permanent thing of it if we couldn’t respect each other in every way. Certainly I’m not sold on marriage-under-any-circumstances and I’m sure Rennie’s not either. There’s nothing intrinsically valuable about marriage.”“Seems to me you put a pretty high value on your marriage,” I suggested. (…)“Now you’re making the same error Rennie made a while ago, before supper: the fallacy that because a value isn’t intrinsic, it somehow isn’t real.”Unfortunately, Morgan lives in a fool’s paradise, whose design is ready to be destroyed by one of the absurdities of the world, Jacob Horner, whom Joe befriended because he read in his detachment a deeper meaning. In fact, Horner is incapable of truly reacting to the outside world and he conducts his actions by precepts he learned but did not fully understand. He autodiagnosed himself as suffering of “cosmopsis”, which physically manifests sometimes as a general paralysis. During one of these crises he met the Doctor, an eccentric individual who leads a shady practice in somehow secret surroundings and who wants to treat him because of medical curiosity. The Doctor, another adept of the Existentialism, believes in the theory that, given the absurdity of life the only way of coping with it is to become aware of and find the best way to handle it. And the way he recommends is Mythotherapy: “Mythotherapy is based on two assumptions: that human existence precedes human essence, if either of the two terms really signifies anything; and that a man is free not only to choose his own essence but to change it at will.” Given that, unlike literature, in life every man is the hero of his own story, he has the power to give secondary roles to those around him, an action the Doctor calls myth-making. All relationships are based on the roles assumed and the importance of this role distribution depends on the impact they have for your ego. However, when the circumstances change the only way to survive is to promptly assign other roles in order not to lose themselves. The Morgans’ tragedy begins when Rennie, fascinated by the non-entity of Jacob, is not able to follow the scenario she has forced herself to live her life with anymore. Her incapacity to find a new mask to replace the old, rendered futile, ultimately leads to her destruction:“If the new situation is too overpowering to ignore, and they can’t find a mask to meet it with, they may become schizophrenic – a last-resort mask – or simply shattered. All questions of integrity involve this consideration, because a man’s integrity consists in being faithful to the script he’s written for himself.”And the agent of destruction is Jake Horner not because he wants it, on the contrary, he tries, in his amoral way, to prevent and/ or repair it, but because of his habit to always change not only his masks, but also those of the others. His “mytoplastic razors” cut in every direction because he is unable to follow only one script:One of the things I did not see fit to tell Joe Morgan (for to do so would have been to testify further against myself) is that it was never very much of a chore for me, at various times, to maintain with perfect equal unenthusiasm contradictory, or at least polarized, opinions at once on a given subject. I did so too easily, perhaps, for my own ultimate mobility. Thus it seemed to me that the Doctor was insane, and that he was profound; that Joe was brilliant and also absurd; that Rennie was strong and weak; and that Jacob Horner – owl, peacock, chameleon, donkey and popinjay, fugitive from a medieval bestiary – was at the same time giant and dwarf, plenum and vacuum, and admirable and contemptible. Had I explained this to Joe he’d have added it to its store of evidence that I did not exist: my own feeling was that it was and was not such evidence.I think the “mythotherapy” was the concept I was most fascinated with in this novel. I would have also liked if its first title, What To Do Until the Doctor Comes, were not changed by the editor (who feared it could be mistaken for a first aid treatise). The unabated sarcasm of the abandoned title would have made it by far more appropriate a name for this weird book, which I still don’t know how I feel about.

  • Frabe
    2018-10-16 08:37

    Qui si narra dell'incontro dirompente tra due opposti, “l'Irrazionale o il Non-Essere” qual è per autodefinizione il narratore, l'insegnante Jacob Horner, e “la Ragione o l'Essere” quale si rivela, con radicalità estrema di pensiero e azione, il suo novello collega di lavoro Joe Morgan: presa in mezzo, sarà la moglie di quest'ultimo, Rennie, a farne le spese... Il romanzo parte in sordina, con rivolti chiaramente paradossali che si impongono via via, quindi procede in crescendo e sfocia in un finale esplosivo. Datata 1958, un'altra ottima prova, dopo l'esordio con “L'opera galleggiante” (1956), dello scrittore - nonché filosofo e psicologo - John Barth.

  • Hannah Garden
    2018-10-13 14:40

    I first read this awful book when I was sixteen and Cole Ingersoll loaned me an old paperback copy which I treasured and tore through and then loaned to someone else, forgetting all about it till my twenties when I stumbled across another old well-worn edition in some little used bookstore in northeast Florida and thought, "Isn't this that awful book?" And so on and so forth, every few years or so I come upon a copy and remember how brutal it is, and wonder if it's still as brutal, and pick it up and reread it through the poor unsettled wide-eyed palimpsest of all my past and former selves, each sef certain the next self won't be able to enjoy this hard little spiteful little sorry little story again, and then thinking back on all our youth and all our idiocy and feeling sentimental towards it until remembering just precisely how exactly grotesque, turning our backs again on it all gently if not to say kindly if not to say sorrowfully, till the next time.

  • César
    2018-09-26 16:46


  • Stephan
    2018-10-16 10:49

    In 1951, on the day after his 28th birthday, with his oral exams passed but his master's thesis not even begun, Jacob Horner finds himself in a Baltimore train station, asking the ticket agent where he can go for $30. Cincinnati, Ohio? Crestline, Dayton or Lima, Ohio? He retreats to a bench to make up his mind, but there realizes he has no reason to go anywhere -- not to Ohio, not even back to his apartment. "I simply ran out of motives, as a car runs out of gas," he says. "There was no reason to do anything. My eyes ... were sightless, gazing on eternity, fixed on ultimacy, and when that is the case there is no reason to do anything--even to change the focus of one's eyes."The following day, a doctor passes Jacob, noting his paralysis, and asks that he return with him to his Remobilization Farm for a course of therapy that includes studying the World Almanac, finding a teaching job at a university, and various other tasks."If you aren't courageous enough to hire prostitutes," the doctor says, "then take up masturbation temporarily. Above all, act impulsively: don't let yourself get stuck between alternatives, or you're lost. You're not that strong. If the alternatives are side by side, choose the one on the left; if they're consecutive in time, choose the earlier. If neither of these applies, choose the alternative whose name begins with the earlier letter of the alphabet. These are the principles of Sinistrality, Antecedence, and Alphabetical Priority--there are others, and they're arbitrary, but useful. Good-by."An existential melodrama of sorts, with a winning and self-conscious narrator, this novel takes all 'isms to the end of the road and shows what happens when you don't see gray areas and acknowledge paradoxes in an absurd world. In a word, great.

  • Olga
    2018-10-14 14:59

    I'd had this book's translation on my laptop for several years and wasn't even planning on reading it. I knew it was good but had other things on my mind (including several untouched paperbacks).This book strikes me with: 1. the characters' mysoginistic attitudes 2. its brilliance and subtext.I read the book quickly postponing a lot of stuff but I would only advise it to experienced readers not ridden with sexism. Otherwise you may get infected with some very questionable ideas that come up in the book but are not served as truths or justice (as far as I can judge).The plot is incredibly gripping and the novel is a tremendous page-turner. John Barth is talented beyond belief - the book is a very impressive knot of motives, ideas and gobsmacking theories about the human personality and its nature.The end of the road deals with dark matters boldly as the author is not afraid to dabble in topics which were taboo in his time and are still slippery at the moment in some countries.

  • Staring·Girl
    2018-10-11 11:42

  • Cody
    2018-10-11 10:32

    Barth breaks your fucking heart and, for me, writes his masterpiece here. Yes, it is a lonely place to be.

  • Liz
    2018-10-03 08:42

    I picked up The End of the Road on a whim, on a visit to my father's house when I was looking for something to read on the bus ride back to New York. I remebered having liked the Barth that I had read, it was short enough to read on the five-hour Fung Wah trip, and it had a quaintly dated looking cover that appealed to me. Sadly, the novel contained within was also quaintly dated to a degree that rendered this one a largely unenlinghtening relic from a different era, full of observations about relationships between men and women that no longer apply. To it's credit, there are moments when the prose crackles with vibrant language and unbridled wit. However, this story of a moorless, dissaffected college professor who sleeps with his colleague's wife, sending the three of them down a path of violence and emotional turmoil, did not stand the test of time.

  • Nathan
    2018-10-13 09:32

    "Whereas the book ends with an abortion, the film is an abortion from beginning to end." --John Barth endorsing a reviewer's judgement.[Have not seen the film yet. Likely it will never be dvd-released. Probably no need to do so]

  • Ingrid Joselyne
    2018-10-07 15:50

    Entre 4 estrellas y 4,5.

  • Alcy
    2018-10-19 10:51

    An excerpt from my book journal on "The End of the Road"Jake and JoeThe two characters, both Jacob Horner and Joe Morgan, are obviously deranged, highly functional madmen who have come to grips with their manias enough to wield them as tools. The fact that these two men met each other is a cosmic comedy in of itself, but it is a testament to Barth's writing that he avoids making these two characters the most deplorable creatures (at least in my opinion). In many ways, they are animals who roam upon their instincts. In other way they are simply men looking at the same map but with two different compasses. And I find very interesting the choice of their professions.Joe Morgan, the History teacher who deals solely with the absolutes and un-absolutes of the decisions of the present.Jake Horner, the English instructor whose internal verbiage instilled within him a state of inertia.In this it is easy to draw the ties that bind them, both educated and highly intelligent (a double serving of traits, I must add, that do not always invite each other over for dinner). But a slicker and wilier connection I took from the relationship of Morgan and Horner.As Morgan begins to insist that Rennie and Horner become better acquainted, a struggle surfaces on the woman. Here she is being given to a man she tolerates, to one who downright ridiculed and heckled her over the phone. The question is, "Why would her husband do this?" This, within my reading, stirred about an image in my mind that came up in two separate but equally important occasions (and both times, I believe Rennie herself voices it).Those who control the life of Rennie Morgan are God and the Devil.The man whom she loves and looks for extreme comfort and safety, a man she also fears for his wrath...A man she detests for his deeds and rhetoric, and yet she grows attracted to because of this...There is an underlying theme which I see. Rennie is afraid of the former because he is truth, he is perfect. But he is also beyond her logic and with the weight of her sins, she feels unable to ever touch him completely. She follows his rules and doctrine because she has to in order to become close to him. In fact, she was a virgin and gave that to Joe, and they decided to marry as an arrangement of absolutes.

  • Christopher
    2018-09-26 11:47

    This is the only John Barth book I have read, and I understand that it pre-dates the more experimental writing style - starting with The Sot-Weed Factor, in 1960 - for which he is best known. Originally published in 1958, the book was revised in 1967; revisions included a new ending. Though the novel may not be representative of Barth's aesthetic, I found it to be fresh and invigorating, until, at the very end, it took the existential crisis of its main characters one step too far, and lost me. On the other had, I respect that Barth's choice of ending makes a certain kind of perverse sense within the universe he has created, even if that ending is very dark and a major departure form the earlier satirical tone of the book.This is story of Jacob Horner, a young grammarian with bipolar tendencies whose therapist recommends that he take a teaching position somewhere so that he has some purpose in life. Such a position he takes, and soon Horner finds himself involved with a young couple - a fellow teacher, Joe Morgan, and his wife, Rennie - with decidedly determinist views on human behavior. The novel recounts their clash - between Horner's passivity and the Morgans; forcefulness - and what happens when both parties take their opinions to their logical extremes. It's extremely fun, at first - Barth is a delightful writer with a wicked sense of humor - but as the plot thickens, so does Barth's style, and the ending comes as quite a shock. Which is what Barth wanted, clearly, but I am not convinced he earns that payoff. To his credit, however, I will be thinking about his book for quite some time.

  • Allison
    2018-10-12 15:55

    Wack! Part of the time I had no solid idea what was going on. Our main character Jake is manic depressive but often finds himself in states where he feels nothing at all. He likens his mind to "weather" and when it is void and there is nothing going thru it at all, he sits in his chair and rocks and nothing happens for hours on end in his head or with his person. He is in a state of paralysis. Sounds Buddhist in today's parlance but I don't think that's what's going on for Jake. Nutter that he is, Jake's therapist is the quackiest quack. A lot of what goes on there and with his best friend Joe is hard to follow. But the thing I LIKED about him was his ability (a failure really) to see everyones' point of view. There is no position he can act on, because he can see where everyone is coming from, making actions for him very difficult. He "doesn't exist"--I presume because he cancels himself out with his opposite points-of-view -- to his best friends.Anyway, ultimately he becomes so enmeshed in his best (and only) friends' Joe's and Rennie's lives, that all blows up. The thing that saves him is action (and it kills Rennie--hello, Freud). The book didn't add up for me but it was a compelling read. There are a few places of laugh-out-loud humor. And wacky philosophizing in spades. The first 3/4 of the book don't mesh with the last 1/4 where Jake is a man of action. I liked the last bit best. It's dark.

  • Becky
    2018-10-08 15:33

    It's a mark of the novels the list has been throwing me recently that a novel this dark and this existential could act as a refreshing interlude! Jacob Horner (the boy in the corner?) is the disaffected youth, paralysed by the choices he feels he's supposed to make, when he bumps into the mysterious Doctor in a train station. The Doctor prescribes an unusual treatment, and Jacob finds himself on the way to the small town of Wicomico and a job at the teacher training college there. Jacob isn't a great person. He's pretty weird, conscious of self image but unsure of it, socially awkward and subject to moods, which change and wipe him out like the weather. He is befriended by an even stranger couple, and becomes irrevocably entangled in their lives. This novel was written in the late 1950s, and it in incredible how modern it feels. Whether this derives from the post war (in our case post depression) sentiment, and the need for people to find deeper meaning in life, or the recent reappearance of puritan values over women's health. Everyone in this book is pretty awful - Jacob treats other human beings like dirt, and the couple have children who barely seem to feature in their "enlightened" scheme of thinking. It's still an fascinating read, regardless of the complete lack of sympathy throughout.

  • Ken
    2018-10-09 10:40

    Once in highschool, I asked one of my more blowhardish teachers (with all the earnestness of a truly desperate cult adherent), "What do I read when nothing in life seems to matter?" His prescription for my malady was John Barth's End of the Road -- and I'm still recovering from his misdiagnosis. I asked how to get away from that crushing, all-consuming, momentum-sapping conviction that life is meaningless and absurd -- not a half-assed modernist vindication of it! This book describes a protagonist with basically the same existential crisis I was facing at age 16. But instead of getting to the bottom of why I felt this way, or doing the right thing and discrediting my teenage ennui with an array of reasons why some things actually do matter, all Barth offers is a weary minuet of complacence and futility that did nothing but deepen my own horror about society and my chances of ever understanding life.I've resented that "teacher" ever since. Dude should have gave me Siddhartha, or Confederacy of Dunces or something. Oh well. No accounting for taste!

  • Diane Lander-Simon
    2018-10-14 15:31

    To quote the author, "I wanted the adventure to teach me this about myself: that regardless of what shifting opinions I held about ethical matters in the abstract, I was not so consistently the same person (not so sufficiently "real") that I could not involve myself seriously in the lives of others without doing damage all around, not least to my own tranquility; that my irrational flashes of conscience and cruelty, of compassion and cynicism - in short my inability to play the same role long enough - could give me as well as others pain, and that the same inconsistency rendered it improbable that I could remain peacefully in painful positions for very long...I didn't consistently need or want friends, but it was clear (this too I wanted to learn) that, given my own special kind of integrity, if I was to have them at all I must remain uninvolved - I must leave them alone."Story of my life.

  • Bschri1
    2018-10-12 16:36

    Most useful book I own. I started reading existential literature when, at age 17, I got the U of Illinois pre - enrollment summer reading list. Kafka and Beckett and a host of other existential writers posit persuasively the meaninglessness of human actions / decisions / effort. To quote the the old poem "you are a fluke of the universe ......... give up". Most existential writing (I'm thinking of Metamorphisis and Godot here) recommend giving up. Barth poses 3 decision rules to allow us to choose among equally meaningless actions. The laws of sinistrality, chronological primacy, and alphabetic primacy. I've used these daily since 1969. In fact, 90% of the time I can choose my next step with the law of sinistrality alone, 10% with chronological primacy. In almost 40 years I have never needed to go to the third law to make a decision. I am not kidding. Love and kisses, Bob

  • Abe Something
    2018-09-23 14:41

    Sometimes even the most awful people reflect directly back into you. Jacob Horner is the most vile character ever written. This book will crush your soul - will leave you feeling empty - horrible - you'll be in despair ... you will marvel at Barth's skilled hand. Barth can write. If you can read, read this. It is a literary experience the way such experiences should be. I can't say anything regarding plot points because ever turn of the road is important for you to navigate with a fresh mind.

  • Jeff
    2018-10-04 13:41

    Hmmn. Barth... sometimes you see an author, you see the talent, just not sure it's your cup of tea. That's happening here. Good stretches, a touch of humor, but also some tedious ramblings and it is a bit disturbing around the end.One of my motivations for picking up this book cheap when I saw it is that I've had Giles Goat-Boy laying around forever, and just have not gotten to reading it, figured this could help me see if I want a larger dose of Barth. Not sure I do.

  • terrycojones
    2018-10-21 13:49

    Again, just a micro review. Enjoyed it a lot, don't know why it took me so long to get around to it.There's a memorable and merciless scene involving a boy scout uniform that has stuck in my mind for years. 'Nuff said.

  • Ed
    2018-09-25 12:42

    Weird read. Heh. Philosophy and threesomes meet and go horribly wrong in the form of archetypal characters.

  • Brock
    2018-10-16 13:38

    My favorite existentialist novel. Of course, it doesn't really matter that it is my favorite. Nothing really matters...

  • Katherine
    2018-10-04 13:01

    *3.75 stars.Pages will not match the edition I chose for this review (which really just consists of quotations I like):"...every piece was immensely competent. The adjective competent came at once to mind, rather than say, efficient. This furniture had an air of almost contemptuous competence, as though it were so absurdly well able to handle its job that it would scarcely notice your puny use of it. It would require a man indeed, a man's man, to make his presence felt by this furniture. I was impressed" (262)."'I guess I should tell you that I practice on the clarinet,' I said. This was untrue: I was not musical" (262)."The one dusty maple outside my window exhausted its scenic potential in a half minute" (263)."I got the wholesale fidgets" (263)."Why not? Bitch of an Eagle Scout's Hausfrau, you spoiled my first real manic in a month of Sundays! I spit on your dinner!" (274)."What was this beast honesty ridden by a woman?" (274)."But there was a length of time beyond which I could not bear to be actively displeased with myself, and when that time began to announce its approach--about seven-fifteen--" (282)."'One of the things you'll have to do,' he said dryly, 'is buy a copy of the World Almanac for 1951. and begin to study it scrupulously'" (330). *This sentence just delights."...not a dozen words were exchanged between us, much less homosexual advances."...and it is easier to sit still halfheartedly than to do dramatic things halfheartedly" (375)."I glanced up at Laocoon: his agony was abstract and unsuggestive" (375)."Lonely animals! Into no cause, resolved, or philosophy can we cram so much of ourselves that there is no part of us left over to wonder and be lonely" (432).

  • Chrissy
    2018-10-10 14:44

    In the beginning the book was very boring, so much so that I read the book on and off having to start over several times. The main characters Jake Horner, Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie Morgan debated/argued over the dumbest insignificant things, for example: "Hello?" "Jacob? This is Rennie Morgan. Will you have dinner with us tonight?" "Why, for God's sake?" This Jacob Horner was an irritable type. "Why?" "Yes. Why the Hell are you all so anxious to feed me dinner?" "Are you angry?" "No, I'm not angry. I just want to know why you're all so anxious to feed me a dinner?" "Don't you want to come?" "I didn't say that. Why are you all so anxious to feed me a dinner? That's all I asked."(Most normal people wouldn't have pressed the issue and would have just basically written them off as one less person to have to see and deal with in life.)This went on for at least two pages. YAWN! Not to mention other discussions/arguments/debates were all pretty much this way. Pointless, and needless in the book. Took up most of the book and in my opinion was really just a LOT of filler. The real interesting parts were mostly more than half way through the book.Jacob refers to the weather a lot when he refers to his moods which I found odd. He even has a dream about it which is even more bizarre. I understand the time frame in the book to be in the early 1950's when striking a woman, even beating her was acceptable but seriously it just made the characters very weak when in fact what primarily Rennie was made to be more of a strong type. It was rather appalling to say the least knowing the the original copyright of the book was of 1958 almost in the 60's when a lot of women started not putting up with such crap.Joe has Rennie give riding lessons to Jacob to keep Rennie sharp on her ability to debate at least that's how I saw it really and not as a hook up. While he worked on his paper. Joe is portrayed as the domineer type that is always in control and a rather annoying know it all figure. What makes me hate Joe even more is that his wife Rennie things he is all strong and nothing can take him down and that he is so perfect in every way, even though a real man would never hit a woman whether or not she is his wife. The writer shows Jacob as someone that doesn't have anyway to make his solid decisions but rather wear a different mask with each question or argument depending what the subject matter. Rennie seemed to be a people pleaser even though she's supposed to be free of those types of qualities.My favorite part of the book is when Jacob and Rennie come back from a ridding lesson and they spy on Joe while he is in his study room alone....... "Want to eavesdrop?" I whispered impulsively to Rennie. "Come on, it's great! see the animals in their natural habitat." Rennie looked shocked. "What for?" "You mean you never spy on people when they're alone? It's wonderful! Come on, be a sneak! It's the most unfair thing you can do to a person.".......blah blah blah, a couple of paragraphs later......."It is indeed the grossest of injustices to observe a person who believes himself to be alone. Joe Morgan, back from his Boy Scouts meeting, had evidently intended to do some reading, for there were books lying open on the writing table and on the floor beside the bookcase. But Joe wasn't reading. He was standing in the exact center of the bare room, fully dressed, smartly executing military commands. About face! Right dress! 'Ten-shun! Parade rest! He saluted briskly, his cheeks blown out and his tongue extended, and then proceeded to cavort about the room-spinning, pirouetting, bowing, leaping, kicking. I watched entranced by his performance, for I cannot say that in my strangest moments (and a bachelor has strange ones) I have surpassed him. Rennie trembled from head to foot. Ah! passing a little mirror on the wall, Joe caught his own eye. What? What? Ahoy there! He stepped close, curtsied to himself, and thrust his face to within two inches of the glass. Mr. Morgan, is it? Howdy do, Mr. Morgan. Blah bloo blah. Oo-o-o-o blubble thlwurp. He mugged antic faces at himself, sklurching up his eye corners, zbloogling his mouth about, glubbling his cheeks. Mither Morgle. Nyoing nyang nyumpie. Vglibble vglobble vglup. Vggiggybloo! Thlucky thlucky, thir. He jabbed his spectacles back on his nose. Had he heard some sound? No. He went to the writing table and apparently resumed his reading, his back turned to us. The show, then, was over. Ah, but one moment-yes. He turned slightly and we could see: his tongue gripped purposefully his lips at the side of his mouth, Joe was masturbating and picking his nose at the same time. I believe he also hummed a sprightly tune in rhythm with his work."I was glad to see that Joe wasn't so high and mighty after all, probably the best part of the book mind you.It also shows Jacob as being in a bus station at one time, probably would have been better if it had started that way other than waiting almost half way through to show how he became a professor at a college. He runs into a doctor at the bus station that is supposed to be a psychiatrist and ends up going to his rehabilitation farm as the doctor calls it to be cured from being in a state of paralysis. I thought the doctor was a quack. Probably a nut job that escaped a loony bin himself and pretended to be a doctor running an illegal practice.Of the craziest things Jacob and Rennie have an affair while Joe is out of town. The two of them only do it once and for the life of either of them they can't remember who engaged in it first or why they did it at all. The odd way that Joe deals with it by wanting his wife and "friend" to continue to do so until they can give a why is just as crazy. I think they're all a little nuts.Rennie keeps stating that Jacob doesn't exist even before they have an affair, she says this several times in the book as does Jacob, especially after Rennie ends up pregnant. When he leaves in the end to follow the quack of a doctor to the new location that is when he no longer exists, he is giving up his life to be free of having to think for himself and essentially to not "exist". It's his guilt of Rennie's death from the illegal abortion that makes him not want to exist anymore in my opinion. Thus calling it the novel "The End of the Road" is quite fitting.

  • Dolceluna
    2018-10-20 16:44

    Un tipico triangolo amoroso sullo sfondo di una cittadina universitaria della East Coast americana è il protagonista del mio primo incontro con John Barth. Un lui, Mister Morgan, inflessibile e autoritario, una lei, Miss Morgan, sciatta e (apparentemente) legata al marito come lo è una striscia di scotch a un pezzetto di carta, e infine lui, il terzo incomodo: Jacob Horner, l'antieore più antieroe, fastidioso, irritante, disfattista, che io abbia mai incontrato nelle mie letture. Un ignavo, che fatica a prendere una scelta, che si nasconde dietro al nulla, che non ha mai un'opione su nulla, che non sa mai cosa fare. All'inizio del libro Jacob Horner viene rinvenuto da uno psicologo (che finirà per diventare il suo alter-ego grottesco) in un parco, inspiegabilmente incapace di muoversi: una paralisi fisica che è specchio di una paralisi esistenziale, di un blocco emotivo e di un'assenza caratteriale. Il romanzo è principalmente la storia dell'infiltrazione di Jacob nella coppia Morgan, con un tragico epilogo che ci ricorderà, per il tema trattato, lo spendido Revolutionary Road di Richard Yates. Solo che, per i miei gusti, qui siamo lontanissimi dal capolavoro di Yates: lo spunto per una vicenda interessante (e più che mai realistica) c'è ma per quasi tutto il libro i personaggi sembrano perdersi in pomposi dialoghi retorici e pesanti speculazioni vicine al filosofico che stridono un po' con la semplicità e il realismo della storia raccontata...e che alla fine rendono il romanzo poco leggibile. Peccato. Comunque più che sufficente.