Cover image for The last voyage of Somebody the Sailor
The last voyage of Somebody the Sailor
Barth, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [1991]

Physical Description:
573 pages ; 24 cm
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This is the story of Simon William Behler, a popular New Journalist whose career has peaked. In 1980 he is lost overboard off the coast of Sri Lanka while attempting to retrace, with his lover, the legendary voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.

Author Notes

John Barth taught for many years in the writing program at Johns Hopkins University, and he lives in Chestertown, Maryland.

(Publisher Provided) John Simmons Barth was born on May 27, 1930 in Cambridge, Maryland. He is considered to be one of the American writers who introduced a U.S. audience to experimental fiction. Barth began as a conventional novelist, exploring existential themes of suicide in The Floating Opera (1956) and the complexity of love in The End of the Road (1958). By the end of the 1950s, however, he was exploring less realistic techniques to keep the reader from being pulled into the story, and thus to make larger points. Those techniques include parody, which Barth first used in The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), to mock the style of the eighteenth-century picaresque novel, and Giles Goat-Boy (1966), which depicts the world as a giant university.

In Chimera (1972), for which he won the National Book Award, Barth applied his method to retell classical myths. His later works include Letters (1979), in which Barth himself appears as a character, and Sabbatical (1982), the story of a woman college professor and her novelist husband, both of whom address the reader and author.

Barth's other novels include The Tidewater Tales (1987) and The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (1991). For most of his career as a writer, he has also been a professor of English, teaching at Pennsylvania State University, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and The Johns Hopkins University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Just when you may have concluded, like Queen Scheherazade's husband, that you've ``heard them all,'' Barth ( The Tidewater Tales ) proves again how original and entertaining he is. Like many of the author's previous works, his latest blends fantasy, mythology, existentialist wit, bawdy humor and metafictional conceits. But though his opening words declare, ``The machinery's rusty,'' the new novel is a testament both to Barth's undiminished generative powers and to his maturity of vision. In the elaborate plot, a ``fifty-plus,'' ``once-sort-of-famous'' New Journalist named Simon William Behler is mysteriously transported to the medieval Baghdad of Sindbad the Sailor. Behler--known variously as ``Somebody the Sailor,'' ``Baylor'' and ``Sayyid Bey el-Loor,'' falls in love with Sindbad's daughter Yasmin and gets enmeshed in Arabian intrigues. The intrigues revolve around such nagging questions as the intactness of Yasmin's virginity, the veracity of Sindbad's tall tales and the whereabouts of a wristwatch Behler needs in order to return home. All this is dealt with in the course of six evenings of storytelling at Sindbad's dinner table. Barth creates whole and engaging characters with his usual wealth of wordplay, allusion and satire. But the novel's greatest achievement is how it connects the conventionally realistic story of Behler's 20th-century life with the outsize and metaphorical world of Sindbad, reflecting in the process on the nature of stories, dreams, voyages and death. BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour . (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Simon Behler--or Baylor, as he refers to himself in his countless best-selling books of New Journalism--falls overboard during a cruise retracing the legendary voyages of Sindbad the Sailor and is pulled from the water by contemporaries of the real Sinbad. Trapped in the distant past but never at a loss for words, Behler--or Bey el-Loor, as he is now known--amuses his new friends with his exotic tales: boyhood on Maryland's Eastern Shore, first love, early literary success, marriage, and divorce. Intricately, almost obsessively structured, Barth's latest novel is written in the mature, relaxed, stubbornly long-winded style of The Tidewater Tales (Putnam, 1987). He breaks no new ground here, but fans will enjoy his virtuoso recycling of familiar themes. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/90.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.