The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor

The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor

John Barth / Nov 26, 2020

The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor National Book Award winner John Barth offers a rambunctious story full of narrative high jinks in this lively inventive epic Journalist Simon Behler finds himself in the house of Sinbad the Sailor af

  • Title: The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor
  • Author: John Barth
  • ISBN: 9780618131716
  • Page: 427
  • Format: Paperback
  • National Book Award winner John Barth offers a rambunctious story full of narrative high jinks in this lively, inventive epic Journalist Simon Behler finds himself in the house of Sinbad the Sailor after being washed ashore during a seagoing adventure Over the course of six evenings, the two take turns recounting their voyages, merging medieval Baghdad and twentieth centNational Book Award winner John Barth offers a rambunctious story full of narrative high jinks in this lively, inventive epic Journalist Simon Behler finds himself in the house of Sinbad the Sailor after being washed ashore during a seagoing adventure Over the course of six evenings, the two take turns recounting their voyages, merging medieval Baghdad and twentieth century Maryland in a brilliantly entertaining weave of stories within stories.

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    About "John Barth"

      • John Barth

        John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A in 1951 and an M.A in 1952 for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus.He was a professor at Penn State University 1953 1965 , SUNY Buffalo 1965 1973 , Boston University visiting professor, 1972 1973 , and Johns Hopkins University 1973 1995 before he retired in 1995.Barth began his career with The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, two short novels that deal wittily with controversial topics, suicide and abortion respectively They are straightforward tales as Barth later remarked, they didn t know they were novels The Sot Weed Factor, Barth s next novel, is an 800 page mock epic of the colonization of Maryland based on the life of an actual poet, Ebenezer Cooke, who wrote a poem of the same title The Sot Weed Factor is what Northrop Frye called an anatomy a large, loosely structured work, with digressions, distractions, stories within stories, and lists such as a lengthy exchange of insulting terms by two prostitutes The fictional Ebenezer Cooke repeatedly described as poet and virgin is a Candide like innocent who sets out to write a heroic epic, becomes disillusioned and ends up writing a biting satire.Barth s next novel, Giles Goat Boy, of comparable size, is a speculative fiction based on the conceit of the university as universe A half man, half goat discovers his humanity and becomes a savior in a story presented as a computer tape given to Barth, who denies that it is his work In the course of the novel Giles carries out all the tasks prescribed by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces Barth kept a list of the tasks taped to his wall while he was writing the book.The short story collection Lost in the Funhouse and the novella collection Chimera are even metafictional than their two predecessors, foregrounding the writing process and presenting achievements such as seven nested quotations In LETTERS Barth and the characters of his first six books interact.While writing these books, Barth was also pondering and discussing the theoretical problems of fiction writing, most notably in an essay, The Literature of Exhaustion first printed in the Atlantic, 1967 , that was widely considered to be a statement of the death of the novel compare with Roland Barthes s The Death of the Author Barth has since insisted that he was merely making clear that a particular stage in history was passing, and pointing to possible directions from there He later 1979 wrote a follow up essay, The Literature of Replenishment, to clarify the point.Barth s fiction continues to maintain a precarious balance between postmodern self consciousness and wordplay on the one hand, and the sympathetic characterisation and page turning plotting commonly associated with traditional genres and subgenres of classic and contemporary storytelling.


    1. At abebooks one can purchase the dust jacket for Women and Men for $US10.* Yesterday I purchased The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor for $US6.50 because my reading copy a) had no dust jacket and b) had a broken spine. With that bit of housekeeping taken care of I have now replaced one signed 1st/1st with a better signed 1st/1st. $US3.25 for a dust jacket? Sure. This little Barthian novel is seemingly oft over-looked, overshadowed as it is by the Golden Age of Barthian Fiction--The Sot-Weed Fa [...]

    2. I was originally interested in Barth by reading about The Sot-Weed Factor, and a glance at the descriptions of some of his other books merely deepened this curiosity. This, then, just happened to be the first one I came across, and mighty pleased I was - having, as I do, a fondness for the 1001 Nights, and Sindbad (view spoiler)[(I would say in particular, but I would also declare a 'particular' fondness for most, if not all, the tales that were in my sanitised and much abridged childhood select [...]

    3. Along with The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor belongs among my most favourite John Barth’s novels – it is incredibly flowery and lacey.“Resail those voyages: my first, to that floating island that was a monstrous fish; my second, to the valley of serpents and diamonds, the island of rocs and rhinoceri; my third, to the mountain of apes and cannibal giants; my fourth, most dreadful of all, to God knows where, where I myself was obliged to deal deat [...]

    4. Slow going at times, but the structure is dazzling.A storytelling contest at a table for ten.Seven voyages of Sinbad vs. Seven voyages of Simon Baylor. (Bey-el-Loor?)But which tales are fantasy? The ones that come from 11th c Baghdad? Or the 20th c Eastern Shore ones? Or both? But Last Voyage is not a puzzle so much as a game. All tales have frames. Any tale is fantastic, to the right listener.Baudy, rauchy, funny, tiresome, good old John Barth. Here, more than thirty years after The Sot Weed Fa [...]

    5. This one was actually pretty straightforward for a Barth novel. The complexity is there, but it doesn't make for such troublesome reading as usual. Interesting to have Sinbad tales interwoven with the story of a Maryland man born shortly before WWII, and then have those stories further intertwine until meeting. Definitely an interesting one.

    6. Strange that I read 3 or 4 of Barth's bks & then? Waited 30 or more yrs to read another one? He taught (or teaches? - don't even know if he's still alive?) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore but I never tried to meet him?! Even though I lived in Baltimore City for 18 yrs?! At 1st, this bk was almost a sure 5-star. It was almost uncanny reading about an environment I didn't exactly grow up in but close enuf. What really cinched it was learning that "Chinese Cigar" trees (aka just "Cigar [...]

    7. Originally published on my blog here in August 1999.John Barth's writing, though always worth reading, suffers from several faults. The most important of these is perhaps the way that everything else he has written pales into insignificance next to Giles Goat-Boy. In that novel, he handles his themes more tellingly, with a background more extraordinary, than in the other novels he has written, and by making it partly an allegorical account of the Cold War increases its interest.A second problem [...]

    8. It initially seemed as if The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor is going to establish itself as cotton candy reading, which is to say, not very substantial in any meaningful way but enjoyable in the short-term, even as the sweetness and lightness gets to be overwhelming at times. During an initial stretch of what was mostly table-setting in each of the two dominant narrative strands of the book, Barth shows off all the tricks at his disposal, extending the traditional role of the establishing c [...]

    9. “The high ground of traditional realism, brothers, is where I stand! Give me familiar, substantial stuff: rocs and rhinoceri, ifrits and genies and flying carpets, such as we all drank in our mother’s milk and shall drink—Inshallah!—till our final swallow. Let no outlander imagine that such crazed fabrications as machines that mark the hour or roll themselves down the road will ever take the place of our homely Islamic realism, the very capital of narrative—from which, if I may say so, [...]

    10. This book was not an easy read. It had sooo many different factors going on that at times it felt like I was in 'uncharted' waters with no form of navigation. I picked it up because I was intrigued about the concept of merging the infamous voyages of Sindbad the Sailor with a modern day variation. But honestly I just couldn't get into it.Sindbad's stories are funny, witty and adventurous, he took your imagination someplace. Simon Baylor's stories were dull and I could not meld his life-stories w [...]

    11. You cannot think of the "campus novel" without thinking of Giles Goat-Boy or the historical epic without The Sot-weed Factor. Barth uses classical story and form to play with the notion of story telling. Here he uses the 1001 Arabian Nights and, in particular, the voyages of Sinbad to do just that. The novel's modern day reality story becomes myth as at the same time the mythic story becomes reality. While perhaps not as great a novel as the previous mentioned Giles or Sot-weed Factor, it is sti [...]

    12. While I suffered a severe disaffection during the middle portion of this book, the sheer genius of the thing didn't strike me until about 2/3 of the way through, once the final character and plot twists finally began to become clear. Truly an awesome work, Barth's own _Thousand Nights and a Night_. The ending is especially moving. My favorite Barth work is still _The Tidewater Tales_ but this is very good stuff indeed.

    13. A rip-roaring witty dance of storytelling. Intertwining the stories of Sindbad the Sailor with John Beylor (one of his many names) who lands himself smack bang in the midst of Sindbad's home/travels and sundry shenanigans, Beylor must attempt to find his way back to 20th Century America. A tour de force story within story structure made me marvel at Barth's ingenuity and kept me entertained through a lengthy piece of storytelling itself!

    14. The Voyages of an American travel books writer.Magically send back to the times of the Arabian Nights. Falls in Love with daughter of Sindbad.Clever but boring. A chapter of his personal past including childhood is always followed by present (in the fairy past) with some recount of a Sindbad voyage.

    15. I liked the layers of this book and found it worthwhile (it is rather long and dense) with one exception. I don't really understand why Yasmin loves Somebody the Sailor. They're rather different in age and I'm not sure why she would have anything to do with him after the events of voyage six. Somebody's six voyage that is, not Sindbad's.

    16. Simon Behler, a contemporary Maryland journalist of minor renown, finds himself in medieval Baghdad, trading stories with Sindbad the Sailor, snogging Sindbad's daughter, and uncovering family secrets and webs of deceit. Two stories unfold, then intertwine: one, Simon's melancholic life-story in Maryland, told through a series of vignettes at key turning points in his life; and two, Sindbad's journeys and the relations between Sindbad and his family, lovers, and neighbors.The book is a marvelous [...]

    17. Barth's novel appeared just as the last great era of books and things bookish was coming to an end. And nobody was more in tune with the 1980s and early 1990s postmodern obsession than John Barth. Hard to believe that such an era actually existed, where arguing over literature was a thing of some importance, where the direction of the novel seemed paramount. Now, those concerns have collapsed into the salons of the "good" and "superior." Used to be that even a mid range American city would have [...]

    18. This book is a fascinating blend of the modern and the medieval, and in this case, medieval Bagdad, as in the Arabian Nights, and specifically Sindbad the Sailor. Following, Somebody, Simon, Baylor, the readers navigate with Somebody through his childhood in rural America, several awkward relationships and love trials, struggles with his (writing) career, and (the fun part) time and space. It has some wonderful central themes including the nature of storytelling, imagination, and even coming to [...]

    19. My favorite of John Barth's novels, and despite the story-within-story-within-story (the outermost of which only brackets the first and last couple of pages), one of his most straightforward narratives.I read this years ago and I'm due for another read. I remember getting unexpectedly emotional at the ending, which surprised me. A beautiful tale, beautifully written.I think of this book like I think of Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose. In that book, your enjoyment is heightened by having alrea [...]

    20. At least twice as long as it needed to be, this is a book with a great premise and some masterful writing, diluted by tedious and often off-putting genre conventions.The genres in question are folktale and aging-intellectual-has-one-last-youthful-lay. The latter isn't my favorite, even when well written, as it often is here. The over-the-top outdated folk style brings with it unsavory obsession with women's virginity, rape, and virility—none of this was as enjoyably silly to me as it is in Bar [...]

    21. Can't get through it. Since it was introduced to me two years ago, I have tried to penetrate its mystery. But until I have solid time to devote to it, I have to put it back in the to-read shelf. I'm about 1/2 way through and it's been 8 months since I last picked it up. By now, what I remember of the story within a story is fractured and broken. Useless information to go back to the book with. It's an intriguing tale of loss and love and narrative construction. But I'm unsure what the story is a [...]

    22. I struggled a bit with the number of stars to give this book. I love Barth's books. And this book was certainly unlike anything I've read. But that was almost a problem. It's so imaginative and so out there, that at times it's close to being a mess. However, Barth does keep it from going over that edge and becoming a complete mess. In a lot of ways I really liked it. In other ways it frustrated me and took a long time to finish. But I still say that Barth is one of the most amazing and funniest [...]

    23. I'll be chewing on this for a while. I'm sure I'll read some essays on it because there were times when I'm sure I was missing something. I liked it, but I've been reading it for almost a year on and off, so it definitely wasn't captivating. Then why finish it at all? I'm not good at putting books away once begun. I didn't dislike it though. This review is more about me than the book, sorry. Barth plays with stories and different perspectives of the same story, which I do enjoy. Might have enjoy [...]

    24. I have read this book twice. It is not an easy read. It is very complicated, but if you like a literary challenge then I highly recommend it. I thought the Sinbad parts were hilarious and the narrator parts were more serious. There are some really great contrasts. It is a really "out there" tale. Warning: some women feel that is is very sexist. I can see how that might be taken but I loved the story anyway. Read it and be prepared for one hell of a voyage.

    25. An intricate odyssey expertly told. Barth explores the nature of selfhood and playfully undermines the reader's expectations of fiction and fact. Throughout, Barth interweaves two entirely disparate and seemingly incompatible narrative worlds, and does so with insight and humour. There were sections that I felt dragged unnecessarily, and the end felt like a bit of a fizzle (its hard to know what I expected instead).

    26. I began this book last year. I've always like the Sinbad stories, and this sounded like it might be fun. It's nothing like I expected, or that the title intimates. The story is tedious. Worse than that, for me, it is bogged down with uninteresting characters, and other things that really serve no purpose. I have slogged through the book for months, and finally, have given up halfway through.

    27. Although I was not as moved by the protagonist's troubles as I would have liked, I have an affection for the interweaving of Arabian Nights with 20th-century America. At first I resisted the melodrama of the Arabian Nights narrative, but I soon switched allegiances and began to look forward to the family drama of Yasmin and Sindbad when it appeared. This book is good for people who like a challenge.

    28. A challenging read for me, but worth going back and forth over and over again. Barth takes you on a journey and his mastery of imagery pulls you in like no other. He hits all senses with the use of the pen. The story within the story is compelling and I found myself wanting to find out what happens next after every meal they share.

    29. Pro: A tour-de-force of postmodern story structure, drawing endlessly on Arabian fantasy and contemporary concerns, intertwining them so thoroughly it's nearly impossible to determine where one leads off and the other begins.Con: 600 friggin' pages, ow which the last 200 or so were spent wondering why the book hasn't ended yet.

    30. I read this sometime in the 90's I think. I had seen him do a reading from it at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park. He is exactly what you imagine from his writing - a literary professor with a slightly raffish aspect.

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