‘FRAME-TALE’ by John Barth

Here Barth challenges the reader to accept that ultimately fiction is something made, a construction of language. A “story” is just that, an ordered contrivance that is not a direct reflection of “reality” but an alteration of it, its transformation by art. By calling attention to his narrators narrating, to the “storyness” of stories… Barth implicitly asks readers to reconsider their expectations of a work of fiction, to acknowledge that the writer might use the form in a different way, might in fact abandon the form in its traditional guise altogether. Does fiction as literary art consist only of the skill with which the writer carries out the familiar narrative strategies, or can the writer achieve other kinds of aesthetic effects, arising from alternative arrangements of form and language?

(From The Quarterly Conversation)

First published in Lost in the Funhouse, Doubleday, 1968. Read it online here