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Giles Goat-Boy

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  1,638 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
In this outrageously farcical adventure, hero George Giles sets out to conquer the terrible Wescac computer system that threatens to destroy his community in this brilliant "fantasy of theology, sociology, and sex" (Time). ...more
Paperback, 750 pages
Published August 18th 1987 by Anchor (first published 1966)
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Let's Shake It Up A Bit
273rd out of 999 books — 564 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
294th out of 763 books — 1,185 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
MJ Nicholls inquires:

"I have been tempted to read this for some time, but Nate's review put me off. What do you make of his thoughts?:"

The first part.
I am an not an impartial commentator on John Barth's work. I owe my entire seven year postmodern reading binge to him, all of which began with The Sot-Weed Factor. By way of his essays Barth introduced me to his generation of postmodern fictionists: Gass, Gaddis, both Barthlemes, Coover, et al, all of that ge
MJ Nicholls
Jan 15, 2013 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Rob, I have emerged in a post-posttape daze, staggering about not sure what to think and whether to rate this old-skool postmo razzlematazzlical performance in the uppers or the lowers. The last Barth I read was Lost in the Funhouse, which I dismissed as dated experimental wankeroo (Barth was the keenest postmodder of the lot, and this collection reads like the marking of territory), and before then the excellent The Sot-Weed Factor (which bears no notable resemblance to Sorrentino’s 1983 n ...more
Nate D
Dec 07, 2009 Nate D rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: a dumpster
Recommended to Nate D by: a dumpster
Ack. Aghh. Though winning a fair measure of benefit-of-the-doubt on sheer absurdity, Giles Goat-Boy seems ultimately to have been a rather pointless shaggy-goat story: a seeming philosophic survey-course that, after oscillating between improbable extreme positions, leaves the reader right back at the start and no better for it. Or considerably worse for have staggered through 700 pages (not counting extravagant introductory material) to re-reach that position. To be fair: Barth is a clever satir ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye

[A Review...] In a Word


In a Few of Leonid's Words

By George! My head spin! I'm such a dumb, I have to think about!

In a Few More of Leonid's Words...Later

Greatnesshood! Splendidacy!

In Leonid's/Father's Last Word


Glossary of Terms Used in the Novel


Insert Huge Picture Here...



Extraordinary Conception

As you'd expect, John Barth’s fourth novel (from 1966) is a brilliant allegory wrapped in a mischievous metafictional frame story th
Jun 19, 2015 Mala rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hardcore Barth Fans
The reader must begin this book with an act of faith and end it with an act of charity.
— From the Publisher's Disclaimer

Both The Sot-Weed Factor, and Giles Goat-Boy, deal with a protagonist's life journey, both are 700+ pages sprawling books, both have been conceived & mounted on an epic scale, both are written by Barth, & there the resemblance ends.
TS-WF is one of those rare books: it's Perfect. GG-B bravely hobbles along like its lame hero– the former has 'Love Me' written all over it
Another odd book. I greatly enjoyed reading it, but I enjoyed the early stretches much more than the later ones, and after turning the last page, I was left completely unsure whether to declare the book good, bad, or otherwise. I don't think I would recommend it to anyone, yet at the same time I want to run around breathlessly telling people about its many virtues.

In any case, I need to read more stuff by John Barth. All I knew about him before reading Giles Goat-Boy was that he was one of the e
Jun 11, 2015 Carlos_Tongoy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
NO es el Plantador, ni es Gaddis, pero algo como esto no merece llevarse las cuatro estrellas que he estado a punto de darle sólo para evitar comparaciones.
Oct 09, 2011 Congodog rated it it was amazing
The Modern Bible.

Anyone that did not revel in the absurdly clear tale told in this primal romp needs to be gone from this exercise. Barth set the tone for many of us (circa 1965) as we prepared to limp through the momentously bad joke: existence.
Scary, unadorned humans running in circles, gathering as much money and corporeal comfort as possible in the shortest amount of time on the backs of others while foreshadowing their fear of the dark with gods of the conveniently unreachable sort, make a
Oct 17, 2015 TheLongWait rated it it was amazing
I waver in giving less than 5 stars to this monstrous comedy slash mirrored prophet's tale slash cold war comedy. Barth is funny, but not in the sense that he makes you laugh. His comedy is of the thought kind, in that I have read a hero's tale of a boy raised by goats who believes himself to be the last great prophet of his own religion.

The book is incredibly well written and indeed very thought inducing. There shall be more Barth books read by me.


Updated 8/7/15 to 5 star
Jun 27, 2008 Greg rated it liked it
An exercise in literary onanism.

Just like this site.
Feb 13, 2008 Virginia rated it did not like it
what. the. fuck.

normally i don't get pissy about books i don't completely understand. but seriously. this is too much. plus it was way way way way too long. and too much gratuitous sex/weird words used to describe gratuitous sex (which i don't normally mind either, but this was so out of control it got boring). plus, like the floating opera, it's weirdly racist: the black men are horny half-animals and the women are seductresses. i take that back. not weirdly racist. just flat out racist.

Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Giles, el niño-cabra de John Barth. Esquizofrenia lectora

He pasado por tantas fases en la lectura y posterior asimilación de esta obra de Barth que ya he perdido la cuenta.
Al principio ni siquiera iba a escribir nada de ella y ahora, sin embargo, vuelvo a ella, a esa relectura de los textos que apunté y vuelvo a cambiar de opinión.
¡ESQUIZOFRENIA! ¡O BIPOLARIDAD! (o cualquier cosa…)
El caso es que no me puedo resistir a escribir unas notas. No l
Finished this book 4 weeks ago, but better late than never.

I’d thought I’d read Giles Goat-Boy a few years ago and didn’t remember much of it because I just wasn’t enamored, despite my lifelong devotion to John Barth. But when I got to page 100, I knew I was in virgin territory and had never seen the subsequent pages before. Apparently I had put this aside on that other attempt. And then I began to realize why.

Because it’s a 700– page comic allegory, that’s why! This is something you really ne
Feb 24, 2008 Billy rated it really liked it think with all the raping in this book you wouldnt need a dictionary to look up every 5th word but alas it aint so. so besides learning a shit-ton of new words, this book is kind of a play off of the world slightly futuristic slightly medieval except countries are universities and Giles Goat Boy is pretty much some sorta prophet tryin to throw a rock in the system but half the time hes just followin his goat-like urges. heh. its long, and pretentious as all hell with the words...but y ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Hadrian rated it it was ok
Shelves: american, fiction
Ack. I feel like a cat who needs to throw up.

The author is very clever, no doubt. His wordplay, repeated denials of authorship and lampooning of the University structure are good points. Aside from this, however, there is too much dragging the book down. The book is bloated navel-gazing, and only becomes more and more tiresome as it 'progresses', boring you further and further as its once-clever puns become agony to read.
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Giles – from the Late Latin name Aegidius, which is derived from Greek αιγιδιον (aigidion) meaning ‘young goat’.
John Barth brazenly turns Holy Gospels into a picaresque fable and the Saviour becomes a revolutionary nerd of the universal standing talking in the new-fangled recondite parables:
“It occurred to me to argue, then, more out of spite than out of conviction, that even his vaunted miserliness might be passèd, and its opposite flunked. Enos Enoch, it was true, bade men give all their weal
Aug 17, 2007 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Pursuers of intellectualism
Giles Goat Boy, as with most of Barth's writing, cannot be summated by anything short of a novel in itself. It is a farce on heroic tales, riddled with metaphors and allusions as thick as the diction therein, with enough mass to leave a reader spending hours picking apart each sentence. This is not a bad thing by any means, as the work can be read fluidly first - then meticulously, to fully benefit from Barth's genius.

The Cold War, Homeric Epics, Religion, Sex, and the pretentious atmosphere of
Jul 20, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Me pasé de listo al intentar leer a la vez Giles y el Plantador, casi me ahogo con dos puertos de categoría especial. He tenido que hacer una pausa con el Plantador. El mundo de Giles es relativamente fácil de seguir y la metáfora política es divertida y reconocible, pero las aventuras del niño cabra exigen manga ancha y bastante atención. Unos años después llegarán los laberintos sin salida y las cajas dentro de cajas que nunca terminan, como la Broma de Wallace o el Arcoiris de Pynchon, pero B ...more
Chance Maree
Nov 27, 2013 Chance Maree rated it liked it
Shelves: post-modern
I enjoyed The Sot-Weed Factor, but not this one near as much. A little boredom, a little annoyance at the rape and juvenile sex mindset--just didn't fit my recent mood. Perhaps I'll visit this one again sometime in the future. I think Barth is generally interesting and a talented writer, but times, they are a' changing.
Jan 04, 2009 terrycojones rated it really liked it
I read Giles Goat Boy in about 2000. I was 37 and I'd spent a lot of my life reading books. So you can imagine how infrequently I had the thought "this is the strangest book I've ever read". That's what came into my head several times during GGB.

It's also a masterpiece. An extended flight of fancy, totally bizarre, anticipating various aspects of our modern computational world. Best of all, it's a deadly anti-academic humor. It helps to have spent years in academia (particularly if academia drov
Feb 16, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
I actually enjoyed this book more than "The Sot-Weed Factor." There is actually a similar theme running through the two books, though by no means is Barth rehashing old material and I did actually like this one better. The world of this book is just so interesting, a strange mix of the world as a university, Judeo-Christian material, the cold war, and others. Strangely approachable for Barth, this is probably my favorite book of his so far.
Jun 09, 2009 Mike marked it as never-to-go-back-to
I got half way through this and have liked almost everything else I have read of Barth. This one seemed clever for clever sake and the characters were very one-dimensional. Too long, I have other books to get to and seemed overly repetitive.
Michael Lawrence
Mar 14, 2013 Michael Lawrence rated it it was amazing
I read and liked this book so much in college that I taught it in Freshmen English. As far as I know, no one in that class committed suicide as a result.
John Rachel
Oct 20, 2012 John Rachel rated it really liked it
Just one of those books you had to read. It was a fantastic work by a since-forgotten great American author.
Apr 09, 2012 Will rated it it was amazing
I love how fantastical and weird and hilarious this book manages to be while maintaining the allegory throughout the entire epic story. Vintage Barth.
Jul 01, 2012 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: barth
giles goat boy, 1966...there's a foreword to doubleday anchor edition by barth...a contents...a publisher's disclaimer and a cover-letter to the editors and publisher...all that before page one of the story...actually..looks like the "cover-letter" begins the j.b.

anyway...this is only the 2nd or 3rd...?...from barth for me...The End of the Road perhaps the 1st and most back in...'86 '87? in a sense, i am jacob horner.

there's this title page;
the rev
Avis Black
Nov 10, 2008 Avis Black rated it did not like it
Barth is a revoltingly stupid author.
Dec 15, 2014 Phil rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, my-library
What can one possible say of this novel? It is by far one of the most interesting pieces of American Literature of its time. One would want to consider it as science fiction or fantasy, all the while never feeling quite satisfied with either distinction (distinctions which are in themselves scrutinized in the story and possibly its most earnest (though disinterested) message). One thing for sure though is that with this novel Barth breaches that point of no return in meta-fictional irony that in ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Kent rated it really liked it
This book truly exhausted me. It's my first novel by Barth, and so I'm afraid most of my impression is ill-informed. As a reader, I enjoyed the science fiction fable element to it. What was the Cold War? How could you possibly write about how ridiculous both sides were, while still exhibiting cognizance of your reliance on that ridiculous country to save you from annihilation. And if that's not enough, pretend that a Messiah arrives to fix everything. What would the world look like through the e ...more
Brandon Wicke
Oct 13, 2015 Brandon Wicke rated it liked it
Very interesting commentary, especially in its early-goings, of "contemporary" (when written) society through the lens of a gigantic University peopled by "all studentdom." Mired in their own Cold War (campus riots between east & west), a goat-boy messiah arrives to show studentdom the way to commencement.

In the first hundred or two pages, I found myself dog-earing page after page to mark memorable quotations or fantastic ideas. While these make the book a worthwhile endeavour, it was, to m
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John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.

John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied "Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration" at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952 (for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus).
More about John Barth...

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“Self knowledge is always bad news.” 14 likes
“Nothing is loathsomer than the self-loathing of a self one loathes.” 6 likes
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