Who's read this & wants to talk about it? Finished it yesterday. Overall... it was good. Some of it was just not fun in any way to read, only amusing to think about as a construct, which in some ways may have been the point. But the first half (everything through the title story) was, in my opinion, damn close to flawless.
I've posted in a couple threads about this recently.
I thought it was good. There were some neat ideas. Some poor executions.
The actual story, Lost in the Funhouse, was the highlight of the book. So, for the 'average reader,' I'd only recommend the one story. Maybe Night-Sea Journey as well, for the clever 'twist.'
For a reader who is interested in literature for its own sake, I'd say read the whole thing to see a good and highly-praised piece of early (?) Post-Modernism. Or something like that.
Would also help to have read The Illiad first so the last two stories don't test your patience too much.
I read something interesting about this being Barth's response to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, following the development of the artist/authorial-presence, from spermatozoon (primordial) and then the more conventional style of ambrose his mark, progressing up to lost in the funhouse, and then becoming increasingly metafictional until Anonymiad where the author disappears altogether into the text, becomes a disembodied voice.
But personally the Greek stuff I found sort of boring, if only structurally interesting. It would have been much cooler to see Ambrose one more time close to the ending.
Ambrose and his family's dissappearance from the whole second half of the book is part of the reason I think Barth is a bit of a braggart for implying that LitF is "more" than "just a collection of short stories."
I mean, yes, you're right. There's a progression from sperm to boy to petitioner to writer to disembodied voice. And that's cool and part of why I think people should read LitF if they're studying literature, but I really think it could have been leagues more cohesive if he put 100% of himself into writing it that way.