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Giles Goat-Boy

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,335 ratings  ·  87 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, 748 pages
Published August 18th 1987 by Anchor (first published 1966)
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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
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 2 of 5 stars
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
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
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
An exercise in literary onanism.

Just like this site.
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.
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.

Aug 17, 2007 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Billy 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
Chance Maree
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.
One minute you want to burn this book and the next you think it is genius. I don't recommend it to anyone. This is a mythological comedy chock-full of rape and hubris.
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
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.
I love how fantastical and weird and hilarious this book manages to be while maintaining the allegory throughout the entire epic story. Vintage Barth.
Michael Lawrence
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.
Avis Black
Barth is a revoltingly stupid author.
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
Jul 01, 2012 wally rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
an Amazing read,it offers a deligt of wit,dark humour and stunning myths all hold together by the genius of Barths Writing,you really most love wordplay and have attended the University for several years because otherwise you cant get into these complex codes he is using,this is an amusing journey in a novel inside a novel with so many fascinating layers that basically contains Everything a lot like Finnegans Wake really,i would absolutely reccomend this novel to anyone,for me this is the greate ...more
If this book has one problem, it's that it's dated and it shows. To really appreciate this book, you have to put yourself in the mindset of the early 60's when the Cold War was gaining more and more force, beatniks were still relevant and rape was no big thing (or at least a possible laughing matter), and even blacks could be made fun of as well as Christianity. Putting it all into the perspective of a university campus which represents the world, and adding a parallel with Oedipus Rex was brill ...more
c1966: I have to admit that this novel was completely over my head. I had some vague idea that this was actually about the Cold War in some metaphorical/allegorical way but I am never quite sure whether it was as good as all the top flight reviewres claimed it is. I am beginning to think that I really am a philistine at heart just as all those nuns kept telling me. I have seen this book described as fantasy but I think this may be a bit of an insult to Tolkein. I personally like the review by Mi ...more
Mike Barnett
Make sure you have a nice long vacation in which to read this --- mine wasn't long enough and so it took me an additional month to finish it. Truly amazing and especially insightful about U.S./Soviet relations at a time when I don't think many people were. And funny. And touching. Too strange a book to say any more: just try it, and don't be surprised if it isn't something you like. I'm still not sure what I really think of it. I just know it was an amazing experience.
Philip Lane
I am afraid I really couldn't get the farcical/comic side of this. It appeared to me to be a description of some weird parallel universe in which various terms for the historical reality of the 20th century have been altered. University for world, United Colleges for United Nations, Border Dispute for Cold War etc. Various myths of ancient times are similarly referenced including a virgin birth with a computer as the impregnator. I found it really difficult to follow because I was unsure how muc ...more
Nov 23, 2008 Vivien added it
Recommends it for: people who like stories about goat boys and messiahs
Recommended to Vivien by: I bought it on a whim in New Orleans
"Self-knowledge is always bad news." Ain't that the truth- one of the most useful quotes I've read all year. Otherwise, the allegorical set-up of this book is at first entertaining, then onerous, and finally obstructive. I'm still reading it, but I expect I will lose interest for once and all in about 50 pages. We'll see.
Just felt as though Barth was trying to include everything in this book, and as a result it felt messy and rushed. The whole idea of the two campuses as east and west, theology, politics, mythology etc etc. There aren't any characters to become engaged with, but I still found myself compelled to finish this.
Dec 15, 2008 ivan is currently reading it
I read about 3/4 of this about 10 years ago, but was left a bit cold by what struck me as, essentially, a one-note conceit (however thoroughly sounded).

Now, though, I work in an academic setting and am a bit more familiar with the politics, so I'm checking back to see if it's any more rewarding.
H. P. Reed
Even as a young woman, unliberated and filled with the prejudices of my time, I found Barth's "humorous" takes on the value of women not only offensive but tedious. The grandeur of Barth's vision is sadly unfulfilled in this pointlessly long and raunchy fable.
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"John Simmons Barth (born May 27, 1930) 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,
More about John Barth...
The Sot-Weed Factor Lost in the Funhouse The Floating Opera and The End of the Road Chimera The Floating Opera

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“Self knowledge is always bad news.” 4 likes
“And never mind that the lessons he meant to be helpful, his students always make people miserable with, and flunk anybody that disagrees with them!” 1 likes
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