John Simmons Barth, American novelist and short-story writer, was born in 1930 in Cambridge, Maryland. He attended Cambridge High School, where he played drums in the band, and in 1947, he entered the Julliard School of Music, where he studied Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration. His literary interest began with pocket paperbacks such as Agatha Christie and John Collier. Inspired, Barth studied journalism at the Johns Hopkins University, ultimately receiving his B.A. in Creative Writing in 1951, and his M.A. from the Hopkins graduate writing program in 1952.
In 1953, Barth took a position teaching in the Department of English at Pennsylvania State University. His first novel, The Floating Opera, was published in 1956. His second novel, The End of the Road, appeared two years later. The Sot-Weed Factor, which garnered significant critical attention, was published in 1960. Barth first achieved commercial success with Giles Goat-Boy, published in 1966. The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy established Barth as a forerunner of American post-modernist fiction.
Barth taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1965 to 1973, at which point he returned to Baltimore to take up a post teaching English and Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins. That year, Barth shared the National Book Award for Chimera. In 1974, he was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Distinguished Achievement in American Fiction in 1997, and the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.
Barth’s oeuvre of twenty published books includes novels, novellas, short story collections, and nonfiction. His work has also appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Atlantic, Harper’s, and the New York Times Book Review.
—Excerpts taken from Blair Mahoney’s “Scriptorium” website
Additional works consulted:
Casciato, Arthur D. "John (Simmons) Barth." American Novelists Since World War II: First Series. Ed. Jeffrey Helterman and Richard Layman. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 2. Literature Resource Center. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.