In “Lost in the Funhouse,” the author, John Barth, writes a story about someone, a narrator, who is himself writing a story about Ambrose, a boy of thirteen. In writing the story about Ambrose, the narrator also comments on the techniques of fiction and the problems and concerns that confront a writer of fiction who is trying to write a story. To complicate the matter further, the narrator may or may not be Ambrose. If the narrator is Ambrose, then Ambrose is writing a story about Ambrose writing a story about Ambrose.
“Lost in the Funhouse” is from a 1967 collection of related stories (also titled Lost in the Funhouse) that constitute a short-story cycle. As frontispiece to the collection, Barth provides the printed makings of a M_bius strip and directions for readers for cutting and assembling it. Should readers follow the directions to fashion the Mobius strip, the strip itself would read in an eternal cycle: “Once upon a time there was a story that began” once upon a time there was a story that began, and so on. This continuing cycle or pattern of infinite regression is similar to a series of mirrors reflecting one another or to the kinds of reflecting mirrors one finds in funhouses. The funhouse is where the narrator/Ambrose is, and, in reading the story, readers, too, are lost in the funhouse that Barth creates.
Though all of this sounds very complicated, and may be on a first reading, Barth provides for the uninitiated a more or less traditional narrative about Ambrose that has all the conventional elements of fiction, including setting, characters, conflict, foreshadowing, suspense, symbols, and...
(The entire section is 673 words.)