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The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)

de John Barth

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2,102407,691 (4.18)108
This is Barth's most distinguished masterpiece. This modern classic is a hilarious tribute to all the most insidious human vices, with a hero who is "one of the most diverting . . . to roam the world since Candide." "A feast. Dense, funny, endlessly inventive (and, OK, yes, long-winded) this satire of the eighteenth-century picaresque novel--think Fielding's Tom Jones or Sterne's Tristram Shandy--is also an earnest picture of the pitfalls awaiting innocence as it makes its unsteady way in the world. It's the late seventeenth century and Ebenezer Cooke is a poet, dutiful son and determined virgin who travels from England to Maryland to take possession of his father's tobacco (or "sot weed") plantation. He is also eventually given to believe that he has been commissioned by the third Lord Baltimore to write an epic poem, The Marylandiad. But things are not always what they seem. Actually, things are almost never what they seem. Not since Candide has a steadfast soul witnessed so many strange scenes or faced so many perils. Pirates, Indians, shrewd prostitutes, armed insurrectionists--Cooke endures them all, plus assaults on his virginity from both women and men. Barth's language is impossibly rich, a wickedly funny take on old English rhetoric and American self-appraisals. For good measure he throws in stories within stories, including the funniest retelling of the Pocahontas tale--revealed to us in the 'secret' journals of Capt. John Smith--that anyone has ever dared to tell." --Time… (mais)
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Inglês (37)  Espanhol (1)  Hebraico (1)  Todos os idiomas (39)
Mostrando 1-5 de 39 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Forever one of the highlights of my literary life. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
A wonderful and inventicw comic novel ( )
  hcubic | Apr 5, 2024 |
There are many things to quibble about with Barth's hugely ambitious tale of Ebenezer Cooke - first of all, the number of coincidences that pile up at the end almost cause a narrative trainwreck - thankfully, the ending is satisfying without being pat. The Sot-Weed Factor is a satire of the big, wordy 18th Century novel, and references abound to Defoe, Jones and Sterne. Barth is not afraid to plumb the depths of scatological humor - there are many jokes involving bodily functions, and somewhat more problematic, rape. Even so, it would be prudish to mount a serious criticism of this novel - its sheer ambition and sense of fun are too disarming. This is required reading for all residents of Maryland - good luck trying to filter historical fact from fiction! ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
A ribald farce full of twists and turns, fluid identities, multitudes of plots with some gems of wisdom sprinkled in. ( )
  snash | Apr 3, 2023 |
This is a virtuoso performance. John Barth is a born storyteller, and The Sot-Weed Factor makes full use of his talents. There are tales within tales, here, and they're all told with a seductive sense of humor.

The story follows a woefully innocent (you could say naive) young poet on his travels from the Old Country to the New. He meets a vast number of characters on his journey, many of whom seek to take advantage of his innocence (or take his life). His companion on his journey is a political agent (spy) who is deeply involved with the affairs of the Maryland government and its enemies. The scope of this novel, as you can see, is astonishing.

Many professional critics make note of how Barth satirizes the historical novel, here, but satire implies a target: something that must be taken down. I think, rather, that Barth is just winking at the historical novel. He knows how these novels work; he knows their cliches. So he incorporates those elements and transcends them so that they no-longer seem cliche or "played out."

The Sot-Weed Factor is not serious literature. It's fun. If you come to it looking for a great story and a good number of laughs and head-shakes, you'll enjoy it. ( )
  bookwrapt | Mar 31, 2023 |
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In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and the fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talanted, and yet more talanted than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similies stretched to the snapping point.
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This is Barth's most distinguished masterpiece. This modern classic is a hilarious tribute to all the most insidious human vices, with a hero who is "one of the most diverting . . . to roam the world since Candide." "A feast. Dense, funny, endlessly inventive (and, OK, yes, long-winded) this satire of the eighteenth-century picaresque novel--think Fielding's Tom Jones or Sterne's Tristram Shandy--is also an earnest picture of the pitfalls awaiting innocence as it makes its unsteady way in the world. It's the late seventeenth century and Ebenezer Cooke is a poet, dutiful son and determined virgin who travels from England to Maryland to take possession of his father's tobacco (or "sot weed") plantation. He is also eventually given to believe that he has been commissioned by the third Lord Baltimore to write an epic poem, The Marylandiad. But things are not always what they seem. Actually, things are almost never what they seem. Not since Candide has a steadfast soul witnessed so many strange scenes or faced so many perils. Pirates, Indians, shrewd prostitutes, armed insurrectionists--Cooke endures them all, plus assaults on his virginity from both women and men. Barth's language is impossibly rich, a wickedly funny take on old English rhetoric and American self-appraisals. For good measure he throws in stories within stories, including the funniest retelling of the Pocahontas tale--revealed to us in the 'secret' journals of Capt. John Smith--that anyone has ever dared to tell." --Time

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