Groundbreaking fiction by Jonathan Bayliss

Reviewers have compared Jonathan Bayliss's fiction — the tetralogy GLOUCESTERMAN — to the works of Sterne, Melville, Joyce, Broch, and Musil.

The four expansive, inventive, playful, thought-provoking novels explore Bayliss's wide-ranging interests including history, liturgy, tragedy, systems, nature, engineering, ships, railroads, geography, and politics — as well as the challenges of friendship, love, domestic life, responsibility, and work.

The tetralogy GLOUCESTERMAN is headed by Prologos (1999) and includes the trilogy Gloucesterbook (1992), Gloucestertide (1996), and Gloucestermas (2010). The novels may be read in any order.

Available in paper and electronic formats

Prologos by Jonathan Bayliss

Prologos is Jonathan Bayliss’s sparkling, complex, experimental, playful, serious, richly detailed literary masterpiece of the 20th century — whose protagonist, Michael Chapman, is the “author” or “controller” of the other three novels in Bayliss’s GLOUCESTERMAN tetralogy.

The foreground is California’s Bay Area about a decade after the end of World War 2. The background is the pre-war East Coast (Cambridge, Gloucester, Manhattan) and the wartime and post-war Pacific of Chapman’s Naval service. Living in Oakland with wife and children, he yearns for the Gloucester that he left as a child, and for the European world he’s never seen. He is torn three ways — by domestic love, by the practical matters of his livelihood, and by the conflicts of intellectual life.

No one reader will sympathize with all the manias or crochets either of Chapman or of his friend Caleb Karcist. But a thoughtful reading will engage almost anyone’s mind with the novel’s intellectual departures from traditional narrative. Prologos generates anthropological, economic, technical, and literary ideas from a base of erotic and social realism.

"Prologos is among the most significant experiments in narrative form in the last fifty years of American fiction."

—Gary Grieve-Carlson

"The English novel has been restored in this fucking book by Bayliss."

—Charles Olson, 1966, commenting on an early version of Prologos

"…a learned, intellectual, and demanding work — although it is never obscure, opaque, or capricious. The author is not trying to puzzle us. He takes us, rather, on a highly controlled exploration … There's a vivacity, a profusion of intellect, style, detail, an exuberance and plenitude that recall Melville's or, at other moments, Whitman's."

—Stuart Miller

"Groundbreaking European fictions, such as Hermann Broch's The Sleepwalkers and Musil's The Man without Qualities, come to mind as comparisons … It returns the novel in English to its experimental roots, with the wit and outrageous inventiveness of Tristram Shandy. Jonathan Bayliss uses language in a way that makes our native tongue come alive for us as though we were experiencing it for the first time in all its freshness and hard-edge originality.

—Peter Anastas

"Gloucesterbook is a genuine achievement, a literary work of true originality. The real hero here is Place."

—Gerrit Lansing

Jonathan Bayliss (1926-2009), novelist and playwright, grew up during the Great Depression in Cambridge, Massachuetts, and Vermont. He began college at Harvard, leaving after his freshman year to enlist in the Navy during World War 2. After the War he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.

While writing his novels and Gilgamesh plays, Bayliss earned a livelihood in analysis, systems, and management, beginning in 1950 at a Berkeley bookstore. He was controller of Gorton's of Gloucester and had two stints as a manager for the City of Gloucester, Mass.

Gloucesterbook Gloucestertide Gloucestermas by Jonathan Bayliss

The three Gloucester novels follow the inner lives of a cluster of friends as they wrestle with their desires, their ideas, and their histories — in the Atlantic coast's city of "Dogtown" on "Cape Gloucester," the place that is the backbone of this sprawling, eclectic, unconventional, and stimulating fiction. The novels may be read in any order.


Gilgamesh Plays

These dramatic works by Jonathan Bayliss, The Tower of Gilgamesh and The Acts of Gilgamesh, take place in Sumer (now southern Iraq), where it is said that civilization began: the first writing, numbering, and accounting systems, the first literature, and, for better or worse, the Tower of Babel. Loosely based on the Gilgamesh legend, together the plays form a comedic tragedy exploring — with humor, imagination, and spirited language — ideas about free will, love, creativity, friendship, and religion.

Available in paper, cloth, and electronic formats - publication date March 21, 2017


A collection of Bayliss's political essays and letters addressing crucial questions in American politics, including: why political parties matter, why citizens should register and vote as Democrats, what the Republican Party really wants, and what (in a nutshell) Democrats stand for.

Available in paper and electronic formats

Reading from Prologos taped September 2, 2015
Watch the Video by Ferrini Productions
Sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center