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by John Barth

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58243-755-2
Publisher: Counterpoint

Barth delivers a slim postmodern novel about—what else?—a postmodern novelist experiencing a series of uncanny coincidences and visions.

Narrator G.I. Newett (try saying it aloud) and his wife Amanda, a poet, both teach at Stratford College, a small liberal arts school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, when weird things start to happen. First, their home is destroyed by a tornado. Then, on a subsequent trip to Europe (in the “other” Stratford, no less), Newett experiences a fall that has all the self-conscious theological resonance Barth can ring from it. What the narrator calls his Accidental Head-Bang occurs on September 22, 2007, not so coincidentally Newitt’s 77th birthday (or the 77th anniversary of his “expulsion from the maternal womb," as he puts it), Yom Kippur and the autumnal equinox. Then begins a series of “post-equinoctial visions,” as well as meditations on those visions, that take Newett back to childhood memories of his best friend Ned Prosper. Newitt relives his early adolescent fumblings, free-wheeling camping trips that involve partner-swapping with Ned and his girlfriend, his short-lived relationship with his first wife and the cultural landscape of the past four decades. The narrative takes place in both past and present, the latter conveyed through generous dialogue with Amanda, a partner every bit as intelligent and sharp-witted as the narrator himself. The brilliance of the novel emerges through Newett’s quirky word play (his reference to the “autumnal equi-knocks," for example, or his discovery that he’s a “'maker-upper, not a tell-aller’”). Eventually he decides to complete the prematurely deceased Ned’s unfinished novel—called Every Third Thought.  

Idiosyncratic, outlandish—and a good read.