John Barth
on Fiction and Reality, etc.
American novelists 
of the absurd
American novelists of the absurd...while they sometimes exagerate "reality," sledom feel the need to distort it beyond recognition. In fact, they usually don't imitate "life" at all, but other novels, other forms, other styles. ..."make the artifice part of your point" (Barth qut in Harris)
"If you are a novelist of a certain type of temperament, then what you really want to do is re-invent the world... God wasn't too bad a novel, except he was a Realist...This implulse to imagine alternatives to the world can become a driving impulse for writers. I confess that it is for me. So that really what you want to do is re-invent philosophy and the rest--make up your own whole history of the world." (Barth qut in Morrell 36)
from his novels
1. "`"`"`"Speak!" Menelaus cried to Helen on the bridal bed,' I reminded Helen in her Trojan bedroom," I confessed to Eidothea on the beach,' I declared to Proteus in the cavemouth," I vouchsafed to Helen on the ship," I told Peisistratus at least in my Spartan hall," I say to whoever and where- I am.  And Helen answered:
   "`"`"`"Love!"`"`"`"  ("Menelaiad," Lost in the Funhouse, p. 150)

2. [This book] is a floating opera, friend, fraught with curiosities, melodrama, spectacle, instruction, and entertainment, but it floats willy-nilly on the tide of my vagrant prose: you'll catch sight of it, lose it, spy it again...
(Floating Opera, p. 6)

3. ...this account [What I Did Until the Doctor Came] became the basis of a slight novel called The End of the Road (1958), which ten years later inspired a film, same title, as false to the novel as was the novel to your Account and your Account to the actual Horner-Morgan-Morgan triangle as it might have been observed from either other vertex. (LETTER, p. 19) 

on self-conscious novel
1. "[one way to come to terms with the difference between art and life] is to define fiction as a kind of true representation of the distortion we all make of life.  In other words, it's a representation of a distortion; not a representation of life....Art is artifice, after all."

2.  If you happen to be Vladimir Nabokov, you might address that felt ultimacy by writing Pale Fire.... If you were Borges you might write Labyrinths: fictions by a learned librarian in the form of footnotes, as he describes them, to imaginary or hypothetical books.  And I'll add that if you were the author of this paper, you'd have written something like SWF or GGB: novels which imitate the form of the Novel, by an author who imitates the role of Author.  The something new and may be quite serious and passionate despite its farcical aspect. ("Literature of Exhaustion," p. 72.) 

3. With varying results, they [the critics on postmodernism] maintain, postmodernist writers write a fiction that is more and more about itself and its process, less and less about objective reality and life in the world.  ...
In my view, the proper program for postmodernism is neither a mere extension of the modernist program as described above, nor a mere intensification of certain aspect of modernism, nor on the contrary a wholesale subversion or repudiation of either modernism or what I's calling premodernism: "tradional" bourgeois realism. ... 
A worthy program for postmodernist fiction, I believe, is the synthesis or transcension of these antitheses ("Lit. of Replenishment" 200-203).

From his novels
4.  Oh God comma I abhor self-consciousness.  ("Title," Lost in the Funhouse, p. 110.) 

5. Another story about a writer writing a story!  Another regressus in infinitum!  Who doesn't prefer art that at least overly imitates something other than its own processes?  That doesn't continually proclaim "Don't forget I'm an aftifice!"?  That takes for granted its mimetic nature instead of asserting it in order (not so slyly after all) to deny it, or vice-versa?  ("Life Story," Lost in the Funhouse, p. 114)

1. [Man] is by mindless lust engendered and by mindless wrench expelled, from the Eden of the womb to the motley, mindless world.  He is Chance's fool, the toy of aimless Nature...
Here we sit upon a blind rock hurtling through a vacuum, racing to the grave.  'Tis our fate to search,...,and do we seek our soul, what we find is a peice of that same black cosmos whence we sprang and through which we fall: the infinite wind of space...One must needs make and seize his soul, and then cleave fast to't, or go babbling in the corner...One must assert, assert, assert, or go screaming mad" (SWF, pp. 372, 373)
2. [Burlingame], "I am Suitor of Totality, Embracer of Contradictories, Husband to all Creation, the Cosmic Lover!" (SWF, 536) 

3. My heart, reader! My heart! You must comprehend quickly, if you are to comprehend at all, that those masks were not assumed to hide my face, but to hide my heart from my mind, and my mind from my heart.  Understand it now, because I may not live to end the chapter!  (FO, p. 219)

American Dream
1. There is a freedom there [Maryland] that's both a blessing and a curse.  ... 'Tis philosophic liberty I speak of, that comes from want of history.  It makes every man an orphan like myself, that freedom, and can as well demoralize as elevate.  ( The Sot-Weed Factors, p. 181)
2. ...the crime of innocence,...There's the true Original Sin our sould are born in: not that Adam learned, but that he had to learn--in short, that he was innocent." (SWF, p.801)