The Longest Shortest Story Ever Told

” ‘ ” ‘ ” ‘ ”       ” ‘ ” ‘ ” ‘ “

– John Barth, Menelaiad

I began reading John Barth’s collection of short stories Lost in the Funhouse last night and upon finishing the author’s prefatory note, I encountered a story of staggering simplicity, let unimaginable depth. I have yet to finish it, and doubt I ever will. It so beautiful encapsulates a theme of this site, that I have decided to present the story in full here. Be warned though, once you start reading, you may never finish. I present to you John Barth’s Frame-Tale:

For Clarification: These are two consecutive pages printed on opposite sides of the same sheet.

Frame-Tale Page 1, John Barth

Frame-Tale page 2, John Barth

If you are having trouble visualizing what this is, here is an assembled version: SPOILER.

You will never read this, and thus I can fearlessly admit a grave error: Now that this is on my site,  my previous writings are all in vain, for no one will ever be able to reach them. If you do not hear from me again, you know where I will be. To lose yourself even further read:

Barth, John. “Frame-Tale.” Lost in the Funhouse. New York: Anchor, 1988. 1-2. Print.

To see my modest tribute to this story, see Moobius Mooroboros.



About Webster

Transitionally, I’m a math student and tutor en route to becoming a math professor. Permanently, I’m a mathematics enthusiast. I study mathematics professionally, and as a leisure activity. At the time of writing this, I’m a generalist. I have let to reach the depth of understanding that requires specialization. Though I eagerly await that time, I do enjoy the ‘now’ and find there is bountiful food for thought at any level.
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6 Responses to The Longest Shortest Story Ever Told

  1. well…it seems to me that in order to get lost in this story you have to print the image and then follow the instructions for folding the paper…Am I nearly correct or am I vicariously incorrect about this. (I knew a little boy, older boy too who loved to solve iron puzzles) solved them too! But that’s besides the point.
    Webster are you lost in the schism of “The Frame Tale” in being one slice of the mathematical proof where looks can be deceiving such as the” Dissection Disasters” proof in Burkard Polster’s Q.E.D. where 64=65; you know it I am sure; where the diagonal cut in the rectangle on the right is not really a line as suggested by the drawing; (as the dotted lines) but really a very thin quadrilateral slit of area one. This proof is based on the fact that the square on any Fibonacci number differs by one from the product of its two neighbors! Well, anyway.. I love being nudged into the new world of technology and I am proud that the only time I don’t feel like a teen-to mid 30ish person is when it comes to astute capabilities with these Machines…but Thanks to Twitter…and Spherical Cow..something good is happening. I am stretching my brain and it feels good!

  2. Pingback: Moobius Mooroboros | Spherical Cow

  3. springpeepers says:

    in my in box today it looked as though there were two posts to this entry in
    cow but can anyone who reads this provide me directions to read them

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review | Spherical Cow

  5. Pingback: ‘FRAME-TALE’ by John Barth – A Personal Anthology

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