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The Not-Very-Quotable Sot-Weed Factor

Sometimes it’s just fun to read passages out of context.

You might not have read the book. You might not have any idea who the characters are. But, hey, these are awesome retweetable quotes!

Okay, the passages below are hardly tweetable. These Old English dialogue is taxing.

But in the context of The Sot-Weed Factor, these are a couple of my favorites.

Below, we have two of the main characters, Ebenezer Cooke and his former mentor—a fellow named Henry Burlingame—discussing Ebenezer’s slacker tendencies in the beginning of the novel.

“My dear fellow,’ Burlingame said, ‘we sit here on a blind rock careening through space; we are all of us rushing headlong to the grave. Think you the worms will care, when anon they make a meal of you, whether you spent your moment sighing wigless in your chamber, or sacked the golden towns of Montezuma? Lookee, the day’s nigh spent; ’tis gone careening into time forever. Not a tale’s length past we lined our bowels with dinner, and already they growl for more. We are dying men, Ebenezer: i’faith, there’s time for naught but bold resolves!”

Notice yet another reference to bowels and/or poop. As I mentioned last week, this novel has a staggering amount of poop references.

And the following passage, I can’t even remember the context around it, but I just like it:

“The difference here ‘twixt simple and witty folk, if the truth be known, is that your plain man cares much for what stand ye take and not a fart for why ye take it, while your smart wight leaves ye whate’er stand ye will, sobeit ye defend it cleverly.”

I think all of our politicians would fall in the “plain man” territory.

You may look at the above passages and think, This book looks horrible!

A month ago, I would’ve likely had the same reaction. But, again, this is a novel that takes a little while to “get,” and it also takes a little while to get in the ryhtym of Barth’s Old English dialogue style.

If you can get to that point, you’ll really like The Sot-Weed Factor.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ted Fontenot #

    The conversation with the harlot about her introduction to the Great Leech when a young girl was good, I remember.


    October 29, 2013
  2. I admire the wade through older English. And some current authors have recurring topics like poop and incest – John Irving. Eventually I had to stop reading his works because of his ongoing interest or infatuation.


    October 29, 2013
  3. sally1137 #

    I finally figured out who Ebenezer reminded me of: Abulafia in Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum.” Sotweed will probably take me as long to read, but I won’t need to have my OED nearby for every page.


    October 29, 2013
  4. I was thinking that the latter half defines political posturing since it’s all about “spin,” the “clever” way in which you defend whatever position you take.

    I do think the language sounds wonderfully refreshing. I “hear” it while I’m reading, and it has a certain pleasing rhythm, similar to reading Shakespeare.


    October 29, 2013
  5. obinna okwuonu #

    Its a nice one


    October 29, 2013
  6. It sounds like you are enjoying the read.


    October 29, 2013

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  1. Book #63: The Sot-Weed Factor | 101 Books

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