Novelist John Barth

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ... ?

December 02, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

From Monday to Thursday, he uses a 43-year-old Parker 51 fountain pen purchased in England to write fiction. Fridays are reserved for a Montblanc fountain pen, a gift from a Spanish friend, to write nonfiction essays.

"I always write my first drafts in ink. The flow of ink on paper still pleases me, and as my friend, novelist Anne Tyler, says, it's `muscular cursive,'" said John Barth, a veteran Maryland writer whose first novel, The Floating Opera, was published in 1957.

Barth, 76, taught English and creative writing at the Johns Hopkins University for 22 years before he and his wife, Shelly, who was on the faculty of St. Timothy's School for years, retired in 1995.

They gave up their Baltimore home and now split their time between Chestertown and, since 1999, Bonita Springs, Fla.

He looks forward to his Baltimore visits. "I miss the camaraderie of my Hopkins colleagues and the students, so I enjoy coming back to give readings, schmooze and touch base," he said.

And he's pleased that most of his life's work remains in print.

"At least I haven't yet reached total oblivion," he said with a laugh.

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