The Friday Book

Book cover for 'The Friday Book'Essays and Other Nonfiction.
281 pages.
Pictured trade paperback edition published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Barth’s first collection of essays and non-fiction. This book contains the rather puckish subtitle “Book-Titles Should Be Straightforward and Subtitles Avoided.” You can find great fun in the book’s opening pages, where he espouses his philosophy about book titles, epigraphs, tables of contents, and author’s introductions. Barth explains his own title for this book by saying that he reserves Fridays for essay-writing.

Among other jewels, The Friday Book contains two of Barth’s famous meditations on postmodernism, “The Literature of Exhaustion” and “The Literature of Replenishment.” The essay “Mystery and Tragedy” explains in detail Joseph Campbell’s mythical hero track from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which helps explain much of the subtext in Barth’s fiction.


  • Some Reasons Why I Tell the Stories I Tell the Way I Tell Them Rather Than Some Other Sort of Stories Some Other Way (Originally published as “The Making of a Writer”)
  • How to Make a Universe
  • More on the Same Subject
  • An Afterword to Roderick Random
  • Mystery and Tragedy
  • Muse, Spare Me
  • The Tragic View of Recognition
  • The Literature of Exhaustion
  • More Troll Than Cabbage
  • The Role of the Prosaic in Fiction
  • The Ocean of Story
  • A Poet to the Rescue
  • Aspiration, Inspiration, Respiration, Expiration
  • The Tragic View of Literary Prizes
  • Praying for Everybody
  • Doing the Numbers
  • Intelligent Despisal
  • Writer’s Choice
  • Western Wind, Eastern Shore
  • The Spirit of Place
  • Getting Oriented
  • My Two Problems: 1
  • My Two Problems: 2
  • My Two Problems: 3
  • My Two Uncles
  • My Two Muses
  • The Future of Literature and the Literature of the Future
  • Algebra and Fire
  • Speaking of LETTERS
  • Historical Fiction, Fictitious History, and Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, or, About Aboutness
  • The Literature of Replenishment
  • The Self in Fiction, or, “That ain’t no matter. That Is nothing.”
  • Revenge
  • Tales Within Tales Within Tales
  • The Prose and Poetry of It All, or Dippy Verses
  • The American New Novel
  • Don’t Count on It

Critical Reaction

“Whether discussing modernism, postmodernism, semiotics, Homer, Cervantes, Borges, blue crabs or osprey nests, Barth demonstrates an enthusiasm for the life of the mind, a joy in thinking (and in expressing those thoughts) that becomes contagious… A reader leaves The Friday Book feeling intellectually fuller, verbally more adept, mentally stimulated, with algebra and fire of his own.”

Washington Post

“Even when taking on serious matters, Barth’s essays are shrewd, playful, and often very funny.”

— Editors at


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