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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

RAW on John Barth


John Barth (Creative Commons photo by John Mathew Smith, source). 

A followup to yesterday's post: Robert Anton Wilson was a John Barth fan.

After Robert Shea noted John Gardner's comment about Barth and RAW, Wilson wrote (in a letter to No Governor 11

"I can't answer Arthur Hlavaty's question about what John Barth thinks of my novels, but I can easily answer his second question. I enjoy Barth's books enormously. I think his Sabbatical covers the malaise of our time better than professional spy-thriller writers like Ambler and Le Carre have ever done. Just because one is never sure if the CIA killed the man on the boat or is trying to kill the hero, Sabbatical leaves one with precisely the sense of uncertainty and dread that has hung over this nation since democracy was abandoned in the National Security Act of 1947 and clandestine government became official.

"Sometimes I find it astounding that we have lived under fascism for 40 years while continuing the rituals of democracy -- and that hardly any "major" novelist has tried to grapple with this issue. I salute Barth for his subtlety and the eerie atmosphere he creates in describing our increasingly Machiavellian world. To be brutally frank and eschew false modesty, I think only Mailer, Pynchon and myself have captured the terror of the situation as well as Barth did in that book.

"Oh, yeah, I like Barth's other books, too. Sabbatical just happens to be my favorite."

I had an earlier post about this, but it seems timely to repeat the RAW quote. Here is Arthur Hlavaty on Barth, and see the comments in yesterday's post. 


Eric Wagner said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Lvx15 said...

Barth turns 93 next month.

GGB, in conceit, was written by a computer… I can’t remember, did FUCKUP write Illuminatus!?

GGB also contains what would be known later as a hypertext.

93 93/93