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The End of the Road by John Barth
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The End of the Road (1958)

by John Barth

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538831,090 (3.61)38
As young Jake Horner's mind became an increasingly paralyzing cobweb of dark thoughts, he turned for help to an extraordinary doctor--part saint, part evil-genius, a weird combination of faith healer, magician, and devil. And in so doing Jake found himself following a drastic prescription that was to draw him into a strange, compulsive relationship. It is around the startling results of Jake Horner's "cure" and its amazing mastermind--a doctor almost surely designed to become one of the most remarkable characters in modern fiction--that this brilliant, imaginative novel hinges. John Barth is a young writer of unusual talent whose uncanny insight into the dark mazes of the human mind has given The End of the Road a haunting and troubling reality.… (more)

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English (7)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
So read this and then never reviewed it. Not sure why but now I will. I listened to the short book as an audio. It is the second novel by American writer John Barth, published first in 1958, and then in a revised edition in 1967. It's a dark comedy that is considered a philosophical novel. I read it along with his other list novel, The Floating Opera. This book, continues with the conclusions about absolute values made by the protagonist of The Floating Opera, and takes these ideas "to the end of the road" Jacob Horner suffers from a nihilistic paralysis he calls "cosmopsis"—an inability to choose a course of action from all possibilities. Horner's nameless Doctor has him take a teaching job at a local teachers' college. There Horner befriends the super-rational Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie. The trio become entangled in a love triangle. The story narrates the first-person confession Jacob Horner in the form of a therapeutic psychodrama (a real type of therapy). The novel addresses controversial topics of the time; abortion and racial segregation.

Themes and motifs
1. Choice; where and how to sit, to stay married or not, pregnancy or abortion.
2. bust of Laocoön sculpted by a dead uncle. As Laocoön was bound by serpents, Jake feels himself bound into inaction
3. "cosmopsis" in The End of the Road for a sense of seeing and comprehending all available paths of action and the futility of choosing among them
4. "Mythotherapy" to move Jake beyond his paralysis by giving him arbitrary decision-making principles and having him take on identities by wearing "masks"—assuming roles. He tells Jake "fiction isn't a lie at all, but a true representation of the distortion that everyone makes of life". These distortions—an approach Jake calls "mythoplastic"—people employ to with the arbitrary conditions life thrusts upon them.
5. Both Jake and Joe use their intellects to distance themselves from their emotions
6. Sexual relations:
7. horses; Horse symbols permeate the text. Rennie, an accomplished rider, and her husband whip their heads back and forth horse-like when they laugh. Joe is fond of the epithet horseshit when pointing out nonsense. His surname, Morgan, is the name of an American breed of horse. Joe's consistent sureness, his "rationality and absence of 'craft or guile'", according to Thomas Schaub, seem to echo the Houyhnhnms, the race of rational horses in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 27, 2019 |
זה הספר השני שבארט כתב והשני שאני קורא שנית לאחר כחמישים שנה מהקריאה הראשונה. זה ספר יותר טוב מהאופרה הצפה וכנראה שמשום כך גם זכרתי ממנו יותר, בפרט את הסוף המצמרר. זה ספר קר, אכזרי ומצמרר שאני חושב שהשפיע עלי לא מעט. למעשה אני חושב שלבארט היה תפקיד לא טריויאלי כלל בעיצוב האישיות שלי ומה אני חושב על עצמי ועל אנשים ועל איך ולמה הם עושים דברים. ( )
  amoskovacs | Nov 19, 2016 |
The End of the Road by John Barth - Hated it!

Hate, hate, hated this book! Hated the characters, hated the storyline, just horrible. Not that it's badly written you understand. In order to engender that level of emotion, it must have some redeming factors, but I fail to see why it is listed in the 1001 books you must read before you die

http://www.listology.com/list/1001-books-you-must-read-you-die

So, the characters:

Jacob Horner is our central character, obnoxious in the extreme with little care for the people around him. He uses and discards as he feels fit.

Joe Morgan, a colleague of Jacob. An awful bully of a man who actually thinks that hitting his wife is a good thing as it will straighten her out.

Rennie Morgan, his downtrodden wife. So completely dominated that she agrees that his hitting her has helped her see more clearly.

Peggy Rankin, a pick up of Jacob's. Middle aged, single, desperate. Let's Jacob mimic Joe by allowing herself to be bullied. Now that's a little judgemental of me, but after the first encounter with Jacob, she has no need to allow him back into her life, she has a choice.

Finally, 'the doctor'. He's been treating Jacob for, what I presume to be, manic depression. He's somewhat unorthodox (under statement) and also seems to have little to redeem him.

The plotline of marital infidelity on a college campus in the 1950s (first published 1958) didn't have much in common with the blurb on the back of the book: "a spectacularly black comedy of marital infidelity on a college campus echoing with dark, cruel laughter. In Jacob Horner, whose ludicrous and scandalous antics wreck lives and marriages, he has created one of the most memorable dreadful 'heroes' to appear for many year"

Well I didn't do any laughing, cruel or otherwise, but Jacob Horner is definitely memorably dreadful.


( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
An overall odd book....an odd slightly troubled fellow, treated by a slightly creepy, quacky under-the-radar doctor, makes friends with an obsessive married couple and the further unraveling of their very odd lives picks up the pace. I really did not like any of the characters in this book, and my 3 stars may be generous, yet i still anxiously followed along, wondering where it could possibly be heading - oh.....I get it.....the end of the road......... ( )
  jeffome | Nov 24, 2014 |
This is a dark...very dark comedy, showing how application of extreme existentialism and relativism combined with a will to dominate others can destroy. This is the story of three people: Horner, who is a blank slate, Morgan, who is an extreme existentialist, and Rennie, married to Morgan, and who is a super-rationalist who is easily manipulated. There is a fourth person, as well, the Doctor, who is, in a sense the puppet master, beginning and ending the series of events. This novel is powerfully written, very depressing, and very thought-provoking. ( )
  LJT | Mar 19, 2010 |
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