The Octopus: A novel
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The Octopus: A novel

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  255 ratings  ·  36 reviews

Nog is to literature what Dylan is to lyrics.”—Jack Newfield, The Village Voice

“A new kind of American travelogue.”—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Somewhere between Psychedelic Superman and Samuel Beckett.”—Newsweek

Originally published by Random House in 1969, Nog became a universally revered cult novel and a symbol of the countercultural movement.

In Rudolph Wu

Hardcover, 162 pages
Published (first published 1968)
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Nate D
Jan 16, 2012 Nate D rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: three memories seeking a fourth
Recommended to Nate D by: an octopus in a bathysphere
A kind of drug-haze western, Nog follows a man with only a few closely-guarded and regualrly re-constructed memories as he wanders 60s California and the south-west with little purpose or direction. While we're privy to his inner-most thoughts, they don't ammount to much, mostly a kind of aphasic babble on his own existence, linked to seemingly completely arbitrary courses of action. A lot of what is unique in the prose and construction here turns up again in Wurlitzer's next two novels, but whe...more
As someone who will proudly declare Candy Mountain one of the greatest films ever made and who has worshipped at the cinematic altar of Wurlitzer since a life-changing viewing of Two-Lane Blacktop at 18, I suppose anything less than an earth-shaking masterpiece from my first foray into the man’s fiction would come as a disappointment. After about fifty pages of rather shapeless muck rife with regrettable riffs on hippie sex (which continue unabated throughout), there’s a line of dialogue – “Why...more
Charlie Zoops
Nog is a story of a man coming in terms with his hallucinogenic consciousness roaming between uncertainty and devotion. Charged by a self-chasing pursuit, the narrative strives to de-construct the identity of characters while progressively ridding memories of their evidence. By taking on the aesthetics of a neglected western American landscape, the vivid acts of moving his body through this terrain becomes more of a process than a purpose. In an era of ambiguity and indifference, a nomad finds a...more
Chris Shaffer
Although lacking plot and a strong sense of cohesiveness, Nog is the kind of story that manages to do what very few books I have ever read are able to do. While reading you are at once confused and clear sighted, yet this is the effect the book is supposed to have--an effect that eventually becomes hallucinatory and painfully real.

I think what Wurlitzer is doing here is trying to capture the anxieties, the existential hangups, and the general atmosphere of what is was like to be alive in the la...more
Whoa. Truly nutso in so many ways. But really, what Pynchon says is true. Ain't no bullcrap here. Just pure hallucination. But more of the honest kind than the "whoa, far out man" kind. It's like the gritty, hyper-real (non-baudrillard) mystery novels that have become so popular recently but instead of distilling anger, child molestation and waterways in Boston, it's like the things that the psyche fears the most. Including being locked in a pantry with lots of potatoes.
I would recommend this book to everyone who knows they think way different than everyone else. And to people that can understand that one thing can BE different than what it IS. It's difficult to read and most the time you're thinking in your head "What the hell is this guy ON?".
My favorite character is the crazy old man Nog meets in the beginning. He's a very brief character and all you know about him is that he's a crazy old war veteran. Idk why I like him so much, but I do.
My least favorite c...more
If I had to choose two novels as character studies of the '60s counterculture, one would be Kotzwinkle's The Fan Man, a playful romp through drug-addeld New York. The second and much darker of the two would be Wurlitzer's Nog. Set across the beaches, backwoods, crashpads, and communes of California, this tentative story follows the moment to moment desperations of a Manson-like wanderer, who either stole his identity or is trying to not remember it and his previous crimes as he bums around the s...more
A quick data search through the current books added to my goodreads account yields the following:
[Wurlitzer, Rudolph] (obviously)
Fannie + Freddie The Sentimentality of Post-9 11 Pornography
Beaver Street A History of Modern Pornography
Direct Action An Ethnography
Donoghue, Emma: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits Stories & Kissing the Witch Old Tales in New Skins
Fiction International 22 Pornography and Censorship
Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer

Given that those titles are a cromulent summary of...more
For a story of such creepy events, it's eerie and maybe even refreshing how deadpan the narrator is. This could have been told in overblown, psychedelic style, but stripping away that artifice pares the story down to essentials of action and inaction, and resists making particular meanings out of events or images. That's also what kept me from being completely engaged, though: as much as I liked the wide-open landscape the story drifts through, and the way every character is as hard-edged and gr...more
I probably came into this book with unrealistically high expectations. I love Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Liked Two Lane Blacktop a whole darn lot, though Vanishing Point is my favorite existential automotive 70s movie. And I'd heard that this book was mindblowingly amazing. But, except for a few brief flickers, I couldn't really hook into the main character at all. Which is I guess the point. But it was hard to relate to a character with no center. Or a character with a center but no edges....more
Thomas Pynchon had this to say about Nog in 1969:

"Wow, this is some book, I mean it's more than a beautiful and heavy trip, it's also very important in an evolutionary way, showing us directions we could be moving in--hopefully another sign that the Novel of Bullshit is dead and some kind of re-enlightenment is beginning to arrive, to take hold. Rudolph Wurlitzer is really, really good, and I hope he manages to come down again soon, long enough anyhow to guide us on another one like Nog."
Wurlitzer really nogged my head up.

This novel places the reader so authentically within an unscrewed mind that putting it down actually left me feeling disoriented at times.

The psychedelic cover and massive Pynchon nod (nog?) thereon caught my attention, but I was actually surprised how compelling I found this one.

It loses a star for misogynistic aspects that would've turned me away entirely were it a lesser work.
They don't call it a "headventure" on the cover for nothing. A far out, insider's experiential take on late 60's drug culture like no other. Where the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test documents psychedelic culture from the outside, Nog testifies from inside the brain while on a large dose.
Once you get the rhythm down, this book fucking reads itself.
Owain Lewis
Interesting read and it fairly rollocks along for a novel that has no discernible plot - who needs plot anyway? Some of the blurb likens it to the the work of Samuel Beckett but having not yet read any I couldn't say. I think what Wurlitzer - a practicing Buddhist to this day - was trying to do was explore the darker side of some of the spiritual guff, particularly the idea of ego death and the misinterpretation of no-self, floating around in this period. The shifting identity and fractured memo...more
Matthew Martens
Nog never made it out of the park. If I remember correctly, he drowned in two feet of water. But then he only ever comprised four limbs of a fake octopus. There's more where that came from. Nog was also an apparently real and provisionally timeless novel about a man losing a very tenuous hold on his cool, and the adventures in the West Coast counterculture of the late 1960s that result. The relationship may not be that causal. The writing is typically compared to Beckett, and that's perfectly re...more
Aug 01, 2009 oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Oooh, this sounds terrif.

From the review: Reading Nog is akin to reading other counterculture books of the era, particularly the works of Richard Brautigan . Both writers have (or in Brautigan's case had) a gift for finding the mundane rapturous and for exploring the human condition in the simplest terms possible, free from highbrow language, but rich with nuance. Also the two writers have a gift for composing a world that is at once recognizable, yet somehow estranged from reality....more
H R Koelling
Maybe I'm too old and ornery for this type of book anymore, but I couldn't even finish it. It's too bleak and too depressing for me to read. I used to love books about travel and being lost and the discovery of the innermost working of one's own mind, but I guess I'm just getting too old and crotchety. I think if I had read this book in the earlier years of my life I would have really loved it.

It is well written and very insightful if you want to read a Beat-esque type of book that isn't, perhap...more
Written back in the psychedelic era, this made for interesting adolescent reading. Re-reading it, it seems to have some elements of the more adult "subculture" of the time, what with rampant promiscuity, swinger-swapping, and straightforward stoner-referencing. But I might have been happy just as well leaving it behind. Too much of that era was misunderstood while it was happening, and so much of it, as I understand it myself these days, was elementally narcissistic. I think Nog's well-described...more
Andy Taylor
This was a strange book for me, the way the narrator floats through the story seemingly just letting everything happen to/around him isn't like anything i've read before. To make it even weirder, he deliberately tries to cast his memories aside as he goes. He's like some weird phantom presence floating in and out of different bodies. You can't tell if he's inventing the past or not. You can't even tell if his past experiences are in the past! Definitely a mind-bender.
A psychedelic vision quest infused with elements of noir and the western, Nog is a frantic saga through a textual terrain that expands in all directions at once. Characters, events, and places are fluid, blending into one another so constantly that nothing is more than a mere gesture, idea, or feeling. There're even dashes of dark and zany humor that'll appeal to those who like Pynchon. Wonderfully strange and exhaustingly fast-paced, Nog is a great text.
Dec 14, 2011 Natalien rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: trippy adventurers, people off drugs reading weird stories as a substitute, 60s culture enthusiasts
Shelves: own, drugs, crazy

Yeeeess!!! I finally finished it :)
It was a nightmare to read but you can feel art in Rudy's style.
It's a little like paintings of not-famous Salvador Dali. You look at it and you think there is sort of story in there that you get, but that's when you're in the grasp of the author's own hands of imagination that is never going to reveal itself cause that would spoil the whole fun.
Beyond confusion, trippy, twisted, crazy awesome.
A crazy, strange, wonderful read! The protagonist ( is he Nod? Lockett? other?) sort of flows through life, from one strange trip to another. He starts on a beach, in a storm, with an octopus. Then he's on a mattress, in a hallway, in a house. Then on a ridge, above a commune/ghost town. Finally, on a ship. Often with Meredith. Maybe. Sometimes obsessed with a black bag. Just going with the flow. If the flow is really going.
I can't get enough of these books where you can't tell exactly what is happening, where it is happening, who it is happening to, or if it is happening at all.

Eugene Mirman's short film "Insane High Detective" really captured the spirit of this one. Every character in this novel is insane and/or high. The cover is also very groovy. I would recommend paying through the nose for the psychedelic collectable cover.
Zachary Krug
An odd little book. Felt like a cross between Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and Fight Club. Experimental and while published in 1968, still feels remarkably fresh; eventually though, it is weighed down by the lack of narrative drive. Definitely worth reading and interested to see what else he wrote. (Interesting side note: he wrote the screenplays for Two Lane Blacktop and Pat Garret and Billy the Kid).
I guess there are readers who like a novel that reads like it was written while the author was really, really high and writing down everything that came into his mind. But I find it really frustrating to read a book with no plot, just a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards and a pretentious aesthetic that blocks out anyone not in on the joke. I gave up halfway through this one.
chase Adams
Straightforward in its maniacal drug fueled pacing. Nog is or isn't the protagonist, who never bothers to become more than a excuse to write a novel or a way to fill up a page. And this sort of utilitarian, or at least bare-bones existentialism was pretty damned fun and occasionally engrossing.
I wanted to love this book but kept getting caught in it, like a net whose beauty I was mesmerized by but whose limbs I was tangled in, which I suppose could be good, but felt instead bad, sticky, gummed. I loved Drop Edge though, and have other Wurlitzer's on the shelf that I'm still excited to dig into.
Wurlitzer really played with my gourd here. There's a narratvie, but it's as frayed and elusive as the narrator's memory and his own concept of self. We begin on a beach, dally in communes and deserts, and end on a boat. Did Nog kill someone? What about the octopus? Is he even real?
Eric T. Voigt
Irreverence captured in a book. Motivations needing no explanation, or having an explanation that, while understandable, isn't responsible. Bad behavior, but without consequence and without reflection. Descriptions pointed out as unnecessary after already being read. Avant-awesome.
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The great-grandson of the man who founded the famous music company published his first novel, Nog in 1969. For most of the seventies Wurlitzer worked in Hollywood, writing screenplays. His 1971 play 2 Lane Blacktop was filmed by maverick producer Monte Hellman, starring Warren Oates with singer James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. In 1973 he wrote the screenplay for Sam Peckinpah's Western Pa...more
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