Celebrated Postmodernist John Barth Goes to the Big Funhouse in the Sky

Posted on April 23, 2024

by Eric P

If you took a college English class during a particular window of time there’s a substantial probability that you read a John Barth story called “Lost in the Funhouse,” and the news that he died earlier this month at the age of 93 may have triggered in you a melancholy pang of nostalgia for youthful experiences like taking blue book exams and pretending to understand Derrida. If you never took one of those classes during that time, you’ve probably never heard of John Barth, didn’t know that he died, and are seriously considering bailing on this blog post right about now.

Lost in the Funhouse


Barth, an inventive and prankish writer, started publishing fiction in 1956 with The Floating Opera and continued prodigiously until 2023. He’s generally categorized, alongside the likes of Thomas Pynchon and Kathy Acker, as a postmodernist, his work marked by dark humor, irony, pastiche, and reflexive metafictionality. The story “Lost in the Funhouse” is a succinct distillation of these techniques and preoccupations: a story about a character in a story whose narrator keeps reminding you that it’s a story. It’s the kind of thing you’ll either love for its mind-bending cleverness or hate for its self-impressed preciousness, but without the likes of Barth we probably would never have gotten The Monster at the End of this Book or Deadpool.

Which, again, may be either a good or a bad thing, depending on your tastes. But we’ll end that discussion here before this blog post starts talking about how it’s a blog post.

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