Written in 1955 and published in 1958, The End of the Road
is John Barth's finest novel. The middle book in Barth's so-called 'nihilist
' trilogy, the story is a fairly straight forward tragedy.
The main character, Jacob Horner, takes a job at Wicomico State Teachers College where he is befriended by a married couple, Joe and Rennie Morgan. Jacob has an affair with Rennie. The consummation and consequences of this love triangle comprise the telling of Barth's tale.
While this would seem to be standard soap-opera fare, Barth elevates this story to one of exquisite delight. His blending of humor, absurdity, and metaphysics transcends what could otherwise be a bad country & western song.
In 1970 The End of the Road was made into a film starring Stacey Keach and James Earl Jones-- co-produced and written by Terry Southern. Despite a total absence of nudity, profanity, or violence the film was X-rated - essentially killing it before it ever had a chance.