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Lost in the Funhouse

This book has erratic, experimental collection of short stories.
By Kirit Kiran | None, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 03, 2006 01:50 PM IST

Lost in the Funhouse
John Barth
Price — Rs 500 approx
Publication — The Anchor Literary Library
Ever wondered where do movies like Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch or Soderbergh’s cockney slang creations derive their inspiration from that make them the essential cult classics? No doubt it is pure fiction but there is something different.

Sleek, stylish, in your face, fast paced stories that revolve around a person or a group but the real winner is none of them. Something accomplished by cult favourite author Chuck Palahnuik in Fight Club.

John Barth’s Lost in the funhouse, first published in the 1960s, blazed a trail for modern metafiction. The erratic, experimental collection of short stories ostensibly revolves around a few characters, but the book’s real focus is itself.
Look at me, it says. I am a book and you are reading me. What will happen next? Does the fact that I am asking you what will happen next mean I don’t know?

The book also asks readers: if you acknowledge you are reading a story, does the story gain or lose power? After all, you’re no longer really reading a story, but a story about a story. How many generations of separation are possible until, you know, the human head explodes?

The story from which the book derives its title, Lost in the Funhouse, is both a heartbreaking tale of a young boy who visits a boardwalk funhouse while vacationing on the beach with his family and an account of Barth’s writing it and wondering about it.

Barth’s story is the perfect template for viewing Ocean’s Twelve, Soderbergh’s last Hollywood offering that pretends to be smartly self-aware when it’s really just dumbly self-involved.

Another important aspect of this book is that the author weaves different stories keeping their identities separate. And the fact that a collection of short stories makes it readable any time any place.

Some modern metafiction has revealed important, enduring truths about the problems of reading and writing, but Barth’s convoluted first steps into the genre read as needlessly complicated tellings of very simple stories.

His prose style is certainly unique and evocative, and some of his stories are amazingly inventive, Ambrose His Mark most notably.

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