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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  21,187 ratings  ·  1,206 reviews
The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his side of the story in a book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."
Paperback, 180 pages
Published June 2nd 2010 by Random House Vintage Books (first published 1970)
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this review may or may not contain spoilers. i assume that most bookish people are familiar with the basic plot elements of beowulf, either through high school required reading or that video-game-looking movie, or cocktails at the heaney's. if not - this could ruin everything! but it won't. ah, existentialism... when i was a young lass with my fontanelle as yet unfused; when i still liked the doors and books about manson, i dabbled briefly and emotionally in existentialism. "l'enfer c'est les au ...more

If I could ADOPT that big, lug of a monster, I would be signing the papers right now because Grendel really, really needs a friend something awful. That lonely, melancholy maneater gave my soul a migraine and his final "haunting" words spent me like loose change from the sofa. I can't tell you (though I'm still gonna try) how much I loved this book. It is definitely being added to my list of ALL TIME FAVORITES.

I have rarely fallen so completely into a narrative as I did from the very first wor
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Feb 25, 2012 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joshua Nomen-Mutatio by: karen
Shelves: fiction
During a routine walk from the kitchen to the main room, he stopped mid-stride and suddenly realized that no actual speech had escaped his mouth in what was, sadly, many years. And even very few non-lingual sounds aside from occasional coughs and heavy, anxious breathing ever passed between his lips and the world. He scrolled through his long-term memory for the last time he'd spoken and before reaching a definitive answer he interupted himself with the realization that no matter what the specif ...more
Arianne "Tex" Thompson
Look, I'll be honest: I'm never going to win a triathlon. Yes, scrubbing floors and wrestling dogs keeps me stronger than your average sedentary librivore, but my ecological niche is definitely chair-shaped.

Even so, I was surprised at how challenging this book was. Take this sentence, for example:

I am aware in my chest of tuberstirrings in the blacksweet duff of the forest overhead.

The first time is pretty much "bwah?"

The second time, your brain starts to adjust to higher-altitude reading. You
Jul 09, 2012 knig rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Beowulf is a an 11c heroic epic poem, written in England, in old English, by newly Christianised monks, but set in Scandinavia. If one can’t handle the Nowell Codex, the film does a pretty good raconteur job.

Grendel (1971), of course, precedes both the film and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) which subsequently utilises similar techniques: interweaving highly theoretical discourse with quotidian and utilitarian undertakings.

Effectively, Gardner takes up Beowulf a millennium post
May 20, 2008 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Rob
Every once in a while a book comes along that is so beautifully written it shames me to think I should ever consider putting verse to paper. This is one such book.
Dec 11, 2007 Rebecca rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lit nerds
I feel a little ambivalent about this book. It was definitely intellectually appealing, and the conversation that Grendel had with the dragon was very well done. But Grendel didn't really do what I expect novels to do: it didn't make me care about anything. Part of that may be because it's only a meager 174 pages - probably technically a novella - but I think even in 174 pages Gardner could have engaged the reader more.

While I was able to scrape away a few enjoyable bits from this book out of sh
Philosophies clash, along with monsters and men.

This story of Grendel, told from his point of view, is an unusual amalgamation of Grendel's stream-of-consciousness thought (which becomes more clear and organized as Grendel grows and develops) about his loneliness and self-centeredness, his attempts to make sense of the world, and his cruelty and hatred toward men, while being drawn to them at the same time. Grendel watches the Danes at Heorot at night, eyeing the old king, his young wife and fa
After reading "Beowulf" in my Brit Lit class, I was turned onto "Grendel", by my English teacher. I truly love this book, and the way that John Gardner plays with the character Grendel, and the humor within the writing. After all Grendel was just a misunderstood pagan monster. What's a monster to do? : )
"Grendel" is a retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" from the point of view of the monster, Grendel. The poem was written in Old English sometime between the 8th and 11th Century. The monster had been attacking the Scyldings in the mead hall of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes. The hero Beowulf, a Geat, destroyed Grendel. Although the poem "Beowulf" also tells of further adventures of the hero, the retelling ends with the death of Grendel.

In "Grandel" the narrator-monster has been living in a cave
Arun Divakar
History could very well be interpreted as a stream of stories penned by victors. There have been battles,coups and epoch changing events and almost all of which have been stories told by those left alive or those left on the winning pedestals. Did anyone tell us much about Ravana's thoughts as his entire kingdom was ground to dust by a man and his army of simians ? What of Ernst Blofeld whose plans were doused in hot water by a dapper Brit ? I could go on but the point I want to convey is that e ...more
(my thanks to Rich for the Christmas gift)

It's sort of weird that I've never read this book before. Having grown up with an English teacher for a father, I've known the story of Beowulf ever since I watched an 8mm film project one of his students made, the chief special effect of which involved flushing a yearbook photo of the boy who played Beowulf down the toilet in order to simulate the hero's diving into the haunted mere. I've known about John Gardner's retelling of the story from the monste
I'm not sure of what to think of this book. The style shifts a lot, and clearly Gardner put a lot of work and thought both to its narrative construction and to the themes he was covering in the book. That being said, I was more aware of how the book was written rather than why. The words and the construction of the narrative got very much in the way; I was too aware of them. It seemed very skeletal, not a whole lot of flesh or life to it. There is a lot of philosophy, and its introduction seems ...more
This smallish book, published in 1972, is an interesting exercise in examining a well-known story from an unexpected viewpoint – in this case it's Beowulf retold by the monster Grendel. It could have been a bit naff, like one of those awful ‘reinventions’ that certain novelists seem to knock off every couple of months, like Hamlet narrated by Ophelia. And actually I didn't really like it at first, for exactly the reason that it seemed a bit gimmicky. But by the end (and it's not a long book), it ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Rob rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring novelists
Something I had forgotten in the 20 or so years since last I'd read Grendel, was that it is not a necessarily a book about the solipsism of "the monster". No, Grendel is largely unconcerned with whether/not the Scyldings exist; his struggle is not with existence [1] but rather one with alienation and isolation. In some ways, he is the ultimate outsider: not human enough for the Scyldings, too human for the animals -- the only ones that will speak with him are an aloof dragon [2] and a senile/der ...more
Shelby Olney
A very insightful book, Grendel by John Gardner grips its reader to the very end. The misunderstood monster, Grendel, tells his side of the story of what happened in his fight with the fierce warrior, Beowulf. The book not only gives us an inside peek at Grendel's death, but at his past as well. You can really grow attached to the poor thing. He tells how the humans treated him throughout his life, and how he came to want to carry out mass genocide on the people. As he narrates his experiences, ...more
Julie Suzanne
I've just started this book because the students in my classes are reading this for pleasure, so I imagine it's wonderful. I'm a big Beowulf fan as it is, and I'm intrigued by the premise of such a book as well as by the fact that teenagers are asking to read it! So far I'm on page 11 and I have read, and reread, and underlined, and tossed the words around in my mind and on the tip of my tongue....sprawled out on the grass at the park in the warm May sun. I LOVE IT!!! I think this is the best pr ...more
Lars Guthrie
Marvelous. Everyone but me, it seemed, who was around in the early 70's, read "Grendel." I don't think I really even knew what Beowulf was all about back then, so wasn't interested. So now I'm glad to come to "Grendel" after many connections to the source. I work with someone who is getting her masters in English Lit, and she complained about reading Beowulf papers as a T.A. that were all about how Grendel felt. She was at first confused about the reason for this--not having come of age until Ga ...more
Pat Pat
I really enjoyed reading this book. While Grendel's thoughts were all over the place at some points in the book, John Gardner included some really philosophical messages. I thought his writing style was interesting. There's a lot of jumping around in the style to match Grendel's thoughts as he goes a little bit insane. It is hard to follow at some points but overall the characters are easy to understand.

After reading this book, my point of view of Beowulf has changed. Though Grendel was a monste
This is supposedly one of the great contemporary novels, in which the main character is the monster, Grendel, from the heroic medieval poem Beowulf. Most of the story is written in prose, in first person point of view and we see the world through Grendel's eyes.

While it certainly was interesting to see a completely different story, in which Beowulf only shows up in the very last pages, it seemed to be much more a story about the psychology of the 'monster' in romance, and Grendel acted almost hu
Matt Evans
The monster has a name (Grendel) and a mother (no name given). Grendel, who has an artist's soul, is corrupted by the dragon (his name is Lucifer, it's kind of implied). This is the story, then, of one of Cain's outcast progeny, a monster, a demon, Grendel, the monster with a name.

Grendel comes to no good end (Beowulf rips off his arm and he bleeds to death). The really interesting story is how he comes to end up there, which is Professor Gardner's real imaginative triumph. Unferth the wannabe h
Gardner writes in The Art of Fiction, that once the mechanism of an analytical plot is figured out, much of the magic becomes the illusory wielding of gimmicks from behind the curtain. Grendel warrants some reconsideration, the writing enough (figurative and just plain good prose), carries pleasure beyond the staging of ponderings into civics and humanity, light footed into the full bodied character of Grendel. Beside a solid plotting, this Anglo-Saxon tale retold from his other half, gates the ...more
Astrid Yrigollen
Howl mad Grendel, howl. Howl your rage,your loneliness, your loathing. Ah, I love books that make me feel poetic!Where to start on this classic? I went in to it expecting nothing and came away with much.The cover was what made me pick it up since I love monsters,beasties and other creatures(Oh, is that title taken yet? Would make a great name for a comp).How can you not be attracted to the cat/dogman howling in what I thought was dispair? There were times I could relate to the Grendel who is a m ...more
"My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it."

This is one of those books that you can pretty much devour -- I am tempted to say, like a tasty thane, drunkenly asleep on a warm summer's night.

Strange to say, I liked the middle of the book the best. (When does that ever happen?) That is the point where the pathos reached its pitch and where, interestingly enough, the book is least laced into the structure set by Beowulf.

Grendel is, of course, a riff off of Beowulf. Techn
Me gustaría poder quejarme. Afirmar que nadie me había avisado, que nadie me había mencionado Grendel.
Para mi vergüenza, lo habían hecho. Muchas veces.
Mis disculpas, amigos, prestaré más atención la próxima vez que me recomendéis un libro con tanto ahínco.

Espectacular, por cierto, la traducción de Jon Bilbao.
The Dragon in Grendel is possibly my all-time favorite literary character. This book was one of my largest influences in writing "Cassie Draws the Universe."
Warning: This book review might not make sense unless you read Beowulf, because these two books coincide, but Grendel's view on life and the way it lived throughout this book made me rethink Beowulf. Grendel is crazy, it's a bit psycho, but it has some reason to not be normal. It's a monster in a human world. Grendel's mom is insane and the only thing she ever told her child was "dool dool." This wasn't very helpful in Grendel's life. It had nothing to follow except watching stupid humans and th ...more
Grendel stumbles through life in philosophical mumblings, searching for the tiniest shred of joy in every adventure he journeys. His mother has loved him in a way animals love their young. She helps him survive, but she doesn't nurture him. The humans, in which he placed his trust, laughed and mocked him out of fear. Their minds would not let them understand that Grendel was not out to hurt them. Grendel softens the hearts of readers as his life folds out in a heartbreaking tale. He reaches and ...more
Irene Lê
I understand that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly - as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back. I create the whole universe, blink by blink.

Have you ever feel that life is absolutely meaningless? The struggles you are facing - money, college, family problems, friends, rel
This is one of the strangest books I have ever read. And I've read a lot of books. Perhaps it seems strange to me because I never read Beowulf in any class, nor had I read this before now; I don't know. But it's really, really weird.

My book club read this last year (or the year before), and I was out of town during that time, so although I had the book, I'd never read it. The whole time I was reading it, I wondered if I had the right book. For a time I thought maybe I was reading a YA book (beca
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John Champlin Gardner was a well-known and controversial American novelist and university professor, best known for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth.

Gardner was born in Batavia, New York. His father was a lay preacher and dairy farmer, and his mother taught English at a local school. Both parents were fond of Shakespeare and often recited literature together. As a child, Gardner
More about John Gardner...
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers On Becoming a Novelist October Light The Sunlight Dialogues Nickel Mountain

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“When I was a child I truly loved:
Unthinking love as calm and deep
As the North Sea. But I have lived,
And now I do not sleep.”
“They watch on, evil, incredibly stupid, enjoying my destruction.

'Poor Grendel's had an accident,' I whisper. 'So may you all.”
More quotes…