Lost in the Funhouse is a collection of short stories by noted author John Barth. It is surreal, postmodern and absolutely absurd, at the same time as it is down-to-earth, realistic and steeped in mythology.

A blurb on the back cover of my edition summarizes the majority of the stories very nicely. It (the Washington Post, no less) says basically that Barth elevates daily life to the level of mythology and brings mythology down to the level of daily life. A cursory glance at the table of contents:

  1. Frame-Tale
  2. Night-Sea Journey
  3. Ambrose His Mark
  4. Autobiography
  5. Water-Message
  6. Petition
  7. Lost in the Funhouse
  8. Echo
  9. Two Meditations
  10. Title
  11. Glossolalia
  12. Life-Story
  13. Menelaiad
  14. Anonymiad

"Frame-Tale" is just that--a story which, along with a few others, forms the backbone of the stories (they are mostly unrelated otherwise). Though this is not explicit or obvious, Barth seems to be presenting the stories as being told within the context of the Frame-Tale.

These stories deal with unusual concepts; it is hard to give examples without compromising plot. The strangest thing about the collection is that it is designed as a sort of cyborg audiobook. Barth, in his foreword, explains that some of these stories are best listened to on tape as reenactments, some best conveyed by a "Read by the author" style, and some best read directly from the page. He has a good point--the auditory "imagery" here is very strong, especially in (unsurprisingly) "Glossolalia."

A very interesting collection; I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the roots of postmodernism (before it became a lifeless, soulless shell).