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So. Why aren't the couple in this story that man and woman so easy to imagine. God but I am surfeited with clever irony in a little sickness parallel phrase to wrap up series. This last resort idea in the womb excuse the figure a false pregnancy excuse the figure. God damn me though if that's entirely my fault acknowledge your complicity as you see I'm trying to do something about the present mess hence the story. Adjective in the noun. Don't lose your composure. You tell me it's self-defeating to talk about it instead of just up and doing it but to acknowledge what I'm doing while I'm doing it's exactly the point. Self defeat implies a victory and who do you suppose that is if not blank. That's the only victory left right forward. Eyes open. The only way to get out of the mirror maze is to close your eyes and hold out your
hand. And be carried away by a valiant metaphor I suppose like a simile. There's only one direction to go in. It. We must make something out of nothing. Impossible. Mystics do. Not only turn contradiction into paradox but employ it to go on living and working. No bet on it. I'm betting my cliche on it and yours too. WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN. On with the refutation every denial is another breath every word brings us closer to the end. Very well to write this allegedly ultimate story is a far off form of artistic fill in the blank or an artistic form of same if you like. I don't. Know what I mean is same idea in other terms. The storytellers alternatives as far as I can see are a series of last words
like an ageing actress making one farewell appearance after another or actual blank. And I mean literally fill in the blank. What is this a test. But the former is contemptible in itself. The latter will certainly become so when the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders and goes on about its business just as people would do if the adverbial clause of obvious and illogical nature. The fact is the narrator has narrated himself into a corner. A state of affairs more Tisk tisk than boo. And because his position is absurd he calls the world absurd that some writers lack a lead in their pencils does not make writing obsolete. At this point they were both smiling despite themselves at this point they were both flashing hatred despite themselves. Every woman has a blade concealed in the neighborhood of her garters so don't disarm so disarm her so to speak don't gild yourself. At this point they were both despite
themselves. Have we come to the point at last. Not. Quite. Where there's life there's hope. There's no hope this isn't working. But the alternative is to supply an alternative. That's no alternative unless I make it one. Just try. Just quit talking about it. Quit talking quit. Never dare a desperate man or a woman. That's the one thing that can drive even the first part of conventional metaphor to the second part of same. Talk talk talk. Yes yes go on I believe liturgies not likely ever to manage abstraction successfully he said like sculpture for example is not a FAQ. What a time to bring up that subject anti-climax that's the point. Do set forth the exquisite reason. Well because wood and iron have a native appeal and first order reality whereas words are artificial to begin with invented specifically to represent.
Go on please go on I'm going. Don't you dare. Well well well now I am rods into abstract patterns say you've still got realign but arrange words into abstract patterns you've got nonsense. Nonsense is right. For example on god dammit take linear plot take resolution of conflicts take their direct object all that business. They may very well be obsolete notions indeed they are no doubt untenable at this late date no doubt at all. But in fact we still lead our lives by clock and calendar for example. And though the seasons Ricker are mortal human time does not we grow old and tired we think of how things used to be or might have been and how they are now and in fact and in fact we get exasperated and desperate and out of expedience and out of words. Go on. Impossible. I'm going to relate now one more step and we're done you and I. Suspense. The fact is you're driving me to it the fact is that people
still lead lives mean and bleak and brief as they are briefer than you think. And people have characters and motives that we divined more or less inaccurately from their appearance speech behavior in the rest. You aren't listening. Go on then. What do you think I'm doing people still fall in love and out. YES IN and OUT AND OUT and IN AND THEY please each other and hurt each other isn't that the truth. And they do these things in more or less conventionally dramatic fashion unfashionable or not. Go on I'm going and what goes on between them is still not only the most interesting but the most important thing in the bloody murderous world pardon the adjectives. And THAT my dear is what writers have got to find ways to write about in this A.A. hour of the dead how did out same town as above or there that is to say our a curse and self-consciousness will lead them that is to say us to hear it come say it straight out I'm going to say it in plain English for once that's what I'm leading up to made in my bloody anti-climactic noun. We're pushing each other to fill in the blank.
Goodbye. Is it over. Can't you read between the lines. One more step. Goodbye suspense. Goodbye. Blank. Oh God. Come on I abhor self-consciousness. I despise what we have come to I know that our loathsome loathing our place our time our situation our loathsome art this necessary story LeBlanc of our lives. It's about over. Let the denouement be soon an unexpected painless if possible. Quick at least. Above all soon. Now now how in the world will it ever. Thank you.
Or. Thank you very much. The second piece is a very short one. It's called auto biography. But that's a misleading title it's a somewhat pure example of the same principles. Take it or leave it. On your biography in this case means self composition. And the point is that the narrator of the story is literally not figuratively but literally the story itself. Inventing and commenting on itself as it goes along from its beginning to its in. It's further refer
to its father and its father. Partly I suppose would be myself its mother the tape machine or whatever you want to supply fill in fill in the blank as you like and each line of the autobiography of this which you had originally a subtitle of self-reported fiction in that it records itself makes its own record as it goes along each line of its more or less of a do Blantyre. Some of them auditory hence its being one reason for its being on tape instead of in print and the stories biography as it recites it from its inception to extermination. You'll see will echo and pervert the famous myth of the birth of the ritual hero a myth that since I began satirizing it in the Goat Boy novel and then found the myth taking over as a good myth should has haunted me ever since you know those of you who are students or who have been students in the years since the myth thing has been lead Nichols on campus. Remember the cyclical pattern of the ritual hero's
adventures I did with that myth I don't give a darn finally whether it's true or not you know this young in business but. But I like the idea if I were God and we're creating a collective unconscious you know I'd work it that way I think it would. It's true I live with that myth for many years while I was writing the Goat Boy story and then realized when I was done and it was too late what the myth is really about. Read everybody's interpretations of the myth and then when I was finished I finally realized that young is wrong and that what that myth is really about in its detail is The Adventures of a sperm out his own from the moment of its creation to the moment you can work this out and in horrifying detail and I'll leave it to your imagination to do it there are only some echoes of that myth in this piece. Remember when you hear it since you've been listening to my live voice as it were that the voice you're hearing now is not mine though it may be mistaken for mine
occupational hazard the voice is the speaker is inside this box. This is the greatest way to give a reading I know you just push the button and then somebody else you know reading will see if you can hear autobiography This is called and if the tape machine works properly which it may very well not you'll hear. It. You listen give me life in a manner of speaking. I will hold you responsible. My first words were my first words that we should be going differently. Among other things I haven't a proper name. The one I had there was misleading if not false.
I didn't choose it either. I don't recall asking to be conceived. Neither did my parents come to think of it. Even so school were to be settled. Children are a vengeance. I seem to know myself from the beginning without knowing I knew you. No news is good news. Perhaps I'm mistaken now that I reflect I'm not enjoying this life. My link with the world. My situation appears to me as follows. I speak in a curious detached manner and don't necessarily hear myself. I'm grateful for small mercies whether anyone follows me I
can't. Are you there. If so I'm blind and deaf to you or you are me or both or both. One may be imaginary. I've had stranger ideas. I hope I'm a fiction without real hope where there's a voice there's a speaker I see I see myself as a whole narrative first person die or some pronoun saying Zandi or President want a respite surrogate for the substantive content was for interest less principle. Blinking at nothing. Who am I. A little presented entity for you.
I must compose myself. Look I'm writing. No listen I'm nothing but talk. I won't last long. The odds against my conception were splendid against my birth. Excellent against my continuance favorable. On the other hand if my sort are permitted a certain age and growth God help us our life expectancy has been known to increase at an obscene rate instead of petering out let me squeak on long enough I just might live forever. A word to the wise. My beginning was comparatively interesting believe it or not. Exposition I was spawned not long since in an American state and born in no better ruin no worse. Persist in a representative.
Prohibition depression radicalism decadence and what have you and I for an I. It's alleged now that mother was a mere passing fancy who didn't pass quickly enough. There's evidence also that she was a mere novel device just in style soon to become a commonplace to which Dad resorted one day when he found himself by himself with pointless pen. You need a case she was near mom. At any event dad down again. He has me to explain. Bear in mind suppose he told her a child is not its parents but some of their conjoined it shames a figure of speech. Their manner of speaking. No wonder I'm heterodox ical. Nothing lasts longer than a movie. Dad's infatuation past
remain. He understood about time that anything conceived in so unnatural and fugitive of fashion was apt to be freakish even monstrous in an advertisement of his folly. His second thought therefore was to destroy me before I spoke a word. He knew how these things work. He went by the book to expose ourselves publicly is frowned upon therefore we do it to one another in private. He made him one was bound to be the case. What fathers can't forgive is that their offspring receive and so broadcast their short comings. From my conception to the present moment dads tried to turn me off not ardently not consistently not successfully so far but persistently a persistent way with at least half a heart. How do I know these bloody mare. Which is to say upon reflection I reverse and distort him for
I suspect that my true father's sentiments are the contrary of murderous that one only imagines he begot me mightn't he be deceived in deadly jealous in his heart of hearts he wonders whether I may and after all be the get of a nobler spirit taken by beauty past his grasp or else what comes to the same thing to me. I've a pair of dad at odds to match my pair of mums now account for my contradictions except as the vices of their versus beneath self contempt ah particularly scorn my fondness for paradox. I despise pessimism narcissism solace ism truculence wordplay and pusillanimity. My chief or inclinations Lowthers airdrome am have no pity for self-pity and so Im free of that sweet baseness. I doubt I am.
Being made no joke. If I continue the tale of my forebears that's my exposure. That's my escape. This cursed may turn me out that cursed him saved me right hand slipped me through left thinkers and less on the third hand I somehow preserved myself unless unless the mercy killing was successful. Buzzards let us say I made brunch of maybe times but couldn't stomach my voice which persists like the last year span I had wee monstrosities or easily or Jean-Yves then got rid of. I mean some I'm not what either parent or I had in mind. One hoped I'd be astonishing forceful. I don't flee Iraq local In other words. One day I myself conventional turn. Not every kid thrown to the wolves ends a hero for each
survivor a mountain of beast mates for every Oedipus a city of. So much for my dramatic exposition seems not to worked. Here I am dad. Your creature or your caricature. And happily things get clearer as we go along. I perceive that I have no body what's left I've been speaking of myself without delight or alternative as self-consciousness pure and sour. I declare now that even that isn't true. I'm not aware of myself at all. As far as I know. I don't think I know what I'm talking about. Well well being well into my life as it's been called I see well how it all in a mess in some meaningless surprise. If anything dramatic were going to happen to make me successful or.
Agreeable or endurable or. It should have happened by now we will agree to change for the better still isn't unthinkable miracles can be cited. But the odds against the wireless Deus Ex mocking or and encouraging here the confession. Early on I too aspired to immortality assumed I'd be beautiful powerful loving loved at least commonplace. And how human even the revelation of my several defects absence of presence the name one didn't fetch me right to despair cripple ness of forwards its own heroisms does it not. Heroes are typically get this are they not. But your crippled heroes one thing a bloody hero after all your heroic cripple another that sets at being in ideals morbid image. My fancies only twist bigger is what on does me. I wonder
if I repeat myself one track minds and they lean to their origins. Perhaps I'm still Inuit or a 0 on up in my delivery. My exposition and the rest merely foreshadow what's to come. The argument for an interrupted pregnancy coffin again. In any case from my view this viewpoint I see no point in going further since dad among his other failings failed to end me when he should've. I'll turn myself off if I can and this instant k it. Then if anyone hears me speaking from here inside like a sunk Sub-Mariner and has the means to my end I pray him do us both a kindness. It didn't Very well my son the whole father have mercy I dare you
wretched old fabricator Where is your shame. Burn in the list for pity's sake. Now now you are on. The story's not over. I just did up the show as an arbitrary exercise of power. Well there is an ending to the story which I'll play you in my good time. But we shall play it because as the goat boy says you know catharsis interrupt us as the same kind of adverse psychological effects as Kali Desir required us
so we'll play we'll let him spin out to the Zen which is very short. So. My last drop and I blew it. Not much in the way of a climax. More a climacteric dramatic sword made income quietly and without my knowing it. In the course of any breath you know heart of any word. This war. This war. Perhaps I have a posthumous cautionary value like gibbeted and corpses and pickled freaks. Self-preservation it seems and they smell of formaldehyde. A proper ending wouldn't spin out so.
I suppose I might have managed things to better effect in spite of the old boy. Too late. To risk it. Case. Waste. Shark up some memorable last words at least. There seems to be time for nonsense on mutter to the end of one word after another string the rascals out. Mad or not heard or not. My last words will be my last words thank you thank you I've been listening to a lecture reading by the American novelist John
Barth recorded at the Library of Congress under the auspices of the go to Clarke with all poetry and literature fund. This was another in a series of lectures presented by national educational radio in cooperation with the library. This is that I through educational radio network.
Library of Congress lectures
John Barth, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, features novelist John Barth.
Series Description
A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Barth, John, 1930-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:26
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Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures; John Barth, part two,” 1967-10-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures; John Barth, part two.” 1967-10-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures; John Barth, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from