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Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons
     

Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons

by John Barth
 

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John Barth stays true to form inEvery Third Thought,written from the perspective of a character Barth introduced in his short story collectionThe Development.George I. Newett and his wife Amanda Todd lived in the gated community of Heron Bay Estates until its destruction by a fluke tornado. This event, Newett notes, occurred on the 77th anniversary of

Overview

John Barth stays true to form inEvery Third Thought,written from the perspective of a character Barth introduced in his short story collectionThe Development.George I. Newett and his wife Amanda Todd lived in the gated community of Heron Bay Estates until its destruction by a fluke tornado. This event, Newett notes, occurred on the 77th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash, a detail that would appear insignificant if it were not for several subsequent events. The stress of the tornado’s devastation prompts the Newett-Todds to depart on a European vacation, during which George suffers a fall on none other than his 77th birthday, the first day of autumn (or more cryptically, Fall). Following this coincidence, George experiences the first of what is to become five serial visions, each appearing to him on the first day of the ensuing seasons, and each corresponding to a pivotal event in that season of his life.

As the novel unfolds, so do these uncanny coincidences, and it is clear that, as ever, Barth possesses an unmatched talent in balancing his characteristic style and wit with vivid, page-turning storytelling.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though fans will enjoy Barth's latest, which tackles the subject of old-age and dying, newcomers may find the novel gimmicky. George Irving (G.) Newett, a 77-year-old Maryland native, begins this fictional memoir by explaining a series of unlikely occurrences (a "fluke tornado in the otherwise all but storm-free hurricane season") that bookmark emotionally significant events of his life, placing great importance on seasonal changes, such as "post-equinoctial vision" and "solstitial illumination." His recollections of childhood memories with his best friend—and fellow fiction-writer—Ned Prosper are titillating (the two friends exchange sexual partners, in one compelling section), but ultimately unsatisfying. As a character, Ned lacks the fullness Barth (Lost in the Funhouse) brings to G.'s wife, Amanda Todd, a fellow English professor. However, Barth's depiction of the emotional and sexual lives of married senior citizens proves heartfelt, and crucial to the novel's unexpected climax.(Oct).
Library Journal
In his ever inventive prose, Barth delivers yet another playful romp through the lives of characters both imprisoned and liberated by their constant urge to tell stories in language that shifts shape as constantly as their lives shift spaces. After a tornado destroys their gated community, George I. Newett, whom Barth introduced in his story collection The Development, and his wife, Amanda Todd, depart on a European vacation. The tornado occurs on the 77th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash, a seemingly insignificant date until Newett suffers his own crash/fall on his 77th birthday, which also happens to be the first day of fall. Thereafter, Newett experiences a vision on the first day of each season, revealing a significant event from his life that occurred in that same season. As Newett moves between his visions and his novel, he removes one veil after another—like Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights—exposing one story after another in his quest to discover the identity of George I. Newett. VERDICT Barth's postmodern fables don't appeal to everyone, but the narrative offers many signals that this might be Barth's last book, and if so, he'll go out at the top of his game with this multilayered comic masterpiece.—Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582437552
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

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