THE SOT-WEED FACTOR by John Barth

THE SOT-WEED FACTOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ebenezer Cooke, an innocent like Candide, was born in Maryland but raised in 17th century England. His initial difficulty is that his tutor teaches him to make a game of learning so that later he can find no reason to choose between philosophies, careers or simple actions during the thirty years to follow. An incredibly complex plot (and some 1100 pages) take him to the New World to manage his father's estate. He becomes involved with pirates, the law, Indian "salvages", and religious and political intrigues. He loses the estate in several different ways, tracks down the mystery of his tutor's ancestry, finds and loses the girl he loves (a whore, Joan Toast) several times, and is involved in many adventures with his twin sister, his servant, and shipmates, pirates, colonists and political figures. While intricate, the plot is clear and full of the manners, morals and language of the period with a great display of poetic and philosophic knowledge. Echoes of Boccaccio, Cervantes, Voltaire and Rabelais are to be found in what is essentially a satire of a certain period done with care and style and learning. However, the literary models Mr. Barth has chosen give him ample scope for pornography and scatology and all the archaism will not disguise the elements and incidents of disgust and distaste which were certainly prominent in his earlier modern allegory, The End of the Road.
Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1960
ISBN: 0385240880
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1960




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