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A Pontification On The Wordiness Of The Chapter Titles Within The Sot-Weed Factor, Written By 101 Books Blogger Robert Bruce, Using Less Than 400 Words.

Forget about all my negativity on Tuesday about The Sot Weed Factor. Yes, the Old English style is tiring. Yes, it’s wordy and archaic.

And, yes, that’s the point. It is satire, after all. I think I’m starting to grasp a little of what Barth is trying to do with this novel. Part of his satirical brilliance is illustrated in the form of the chapter titles.

We all know that no self-respecting literary-minded novelist uses chapter titles, right? If anything, they simply enumerate the chapters and nothing else, right?

Wrong! Not John Barth, at least.

Not only does John Barth use chapter titles, he uses extremely wordy chapter titles that pretty much say everything.

Tell me if these aren’t the best chapter titles you’ve ever read.

1: The Poet Is Introduced, and Differentiated From His Fellows

2: The Remarkable Manner in Which Ebenezer Was Educated, and the No Less Remarkable Results of That Education

3: Ebenezer Is Rescued, and Hears a Diverting Tale Involving Isaac Newton and Other Notables

4: Ebenezer’s First Sojourn in London, and the Issue of It

5: Ebenezer Commences His Second Sojourn in London, and  Fares Unspectacularly

6: The Momentous Wager Between Ebenezer and Ben Oliver, and Its Uncommon Result

7: The Conversation Between Ebenezer and the Whore Joan Toast, Including the Tale of the Great Tom Leech

8: A Colloquy Between Men of Principle, and What Came of It

9: Ebenezer’s Audience With Lord Baltimore, and His Ingenious Proposal to That Gentleman

10: A Brief Relation of the Maryland Palatinate, Its Origins and Struggles for Survival, as Told to Ebenezer by His Host

11: Ebenezer Returns to His Companions, Finds Them Fewer by One, Leaves Them Fewer by Another, and Reflects a Reflection

Now don’t you want to read this book? Don’t you want to know how Ebenezer reflected on his reflection in the 11th chapter?

Those chapter titles are just for the first section of The Sot-Weed Factor. They get even better in the second section.

Like this one:

The Laureate Is Exposed to Two Assassinations of Character, a Piracy, a Near-Deflowering, a Near-Mutiny, a Murder, and an Appalling Colloquy Between Captains of the Sea, All Within the Space of a Few Pages

I know my sense of humor is a little different, so you might think those are the stupidest, wordiest, most horrible chapter titles ever. But I think they’re great.

Maybe there is hope for The Sot-Weed Factor after all!

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62 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Rosevoc2's Blog and commented:
    Thank you.

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  2. Brandon #

    Based on your recommendation, I started it yesterday. So far, I love it. It’s brilliant.

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  3. Ted Fontenot #

    A reader has to allow himself to be taken by Barth’s experiment with 18th century literary style and story-telling. It’s both a pastiche and a parody, and it contains parodies and pastiches with the larger (boy, is it larger) framework. The plot, although episodic, is wilding complicated, with events leading to more absurd happenings, stories within stories, until you think that it isn’t possible for the protagonist to ever recover his bearings.

    Like

    October 17, 2013
    • You’re right about needing to “be taken” in by Barth’s style. Once you get adjusted, it’s a great read.

      Like

      October 17, 2013
  4. My chapter title:

    Barth discovers twitter, learns its structure then discorporates.

    (A nod to Heinlein for that excellent non-word)

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  5. I have read a book which has chapter titles like those: very wordy and essentially a summary of everything that happens in the chapter. But I can’t remember the title of the book (or even what it was about). I think they are pretty funny but I think I would find it a little too much if every book had wordy chapter titles.

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  6. Ted Fontenot #

    Oh, and I had forgotten: Film director Steven Soderbergh announced earlier this year that he’s doing a 12-episode adaptation for Cable TV of The Sot Weed Factor, each episode being an hour long. I don’t think that’s going to be long enough

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  7. The last one is exceptionally hilarious. Love it!

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  8. Unspectacularly ~Good word.

    Like

    October 17, 2013
  9. I think those are just a signal for a book that should definitely be read. An almost deflowering? Who wouldn’t read?

    Like

    October 17, 2013
    • Exactly. This book only gets better, too.

      Like

      October 18, 2013
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