John Barth, Undergraduate Academic Adviser

An Essay

by John Balaban

John Barth's books kept me insanely sane through undergrad work. Now this John allows me to see a man-behind-the-writer I did not expect! Thank you, Mr. Balaban. Both Johns live in these words.

Many thanks. I missed John Barth at Penn State, arriving the year after he left. I've learned almost nothing about him, but reading Goat-Boy after my freshman year, I gargled on his sendup of the multiversity, its rote lectures, sterile pseudo-villages, its "rationalization" of education. How fortunate of you to have won John Barth's friendship. Clearly, you earned it; you seem to have been very clear-minded at your age. You seem also to have threaded the various thickets capably; they were full of thorns and snares. For a contrasting narrative, I could tell you of every misstep and muddled direction a person could have made, instead.

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