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John Barth

April 23-24, 2012

Bio

John Barth's legacy of experimental fiction has earned him a dedicated following of readers in a career that has spanned seven decades. His self-conscious, self-parodying writing acknowledges its own fixation on meta-narrative. In one of his authorial voices, Barth writes: "Who wouldn't rather read a straight-on story-story, involving colorful characters doing interesting things in a 'dramatic' situation, instead of yet another peekaboo story-about-storying?"

Barth's first novel, The Floating Opera (1957), was nominated for the National Book Award. He was nominated again for his 1968 story collection Lost in the Funhouse, and he won the National Book Award in 1973 for his collection of postmodern novellas Chimera. He has been awarded grants from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. In 1997, he won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Fiction, and in 1998 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

Barth's experimental fiction has also won him praise for many other works, including The End of the Road, The Sot-Weed Factor, Giles Goat-Boy, The Development, and the forthcoming Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons. As William Pritchard writes in the New York Times, "Every sentence he writes either looks at itself askance or ushers in a following sentence that will perform the task. In his fascinated commitment to the art—and to the criticism—of storytelling, he has no rival."