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They Had Goat Heads

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  189 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
D. Harlan Wilson returns with another ferociously mindbending collection of short fiction. Masked in absurdity, these stories reveal the horrifying and hilarious faces of everyday life. Wilson tells of egg raids, hog rippers, monk spitters, fathers who take their children to pet stores to buy them whales, sociopaths who threaten to clothesline eternity, and the simple act ...more
Paperback, 148 pages
Published September 27th 2010 by Atlatl Press
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Steve Lowe
Oct 25, 2010 Steve Lowe rated it really liked it
Shelves: bizarro, irrealism, absurd
This collection of absurd, surreal, irreal, bizarro flash and short fiction is dedicated to the memory of Stanley Ashenbach, who is still alive.

I met D. Harlan Wilson recently at a convention. She was a very kind old woman who lent me a hand in removing a coral snake from my glove compartment. I did not return the hand yet, however. I sent it to this person as a warning to never touch styrofoam bearing my name again.

If you love strange, dreamlike, "irrealist" fiction that bends your mind and you
Evans Light
Jan 20, 2013 Evans Light rated it really liked it
Shelves: have-it, weird-stuff
Mouthwash for the mind.

Not so much bizarro as avante-garde.

This type of writing looks like fun. I don't have a doctorate in English, but I'm still going to give it a try for kicks:

The salami slaps against the weather-stippled vinyl siding scraps heaped upon the camel's porch; a petunia weeps after a sullen suicide attempt is foiled by gentle summer rain.

Just as a woodwind musician may warm up for a performance by playing scales, this book might be a great warm up read for writers before sitting
A word of advice for anyone interested in reading this book - I do not recommend reading it straight through, from beginning to end, in one sitting. I do not recommend reading more than 1 long or 1 or 2 short pieces together. I started reading straight through and found myself becoming a little lost and even disliking some of what I was reading. So I stepped away and read a little each day, including rereading the bits I had started to dislike, and the entire book felt better, or I felt better a ...more
Garrett Cook
Jun 23, 2011 Garrett Cook rated it really liked it
D. Harlan Wilson's stories are like the titular mutants of this book. They do not belong. They are offbeat mutants that sometimes carry with them a feeling of just plain wrongness. They are reality deviants and infiltrators and don't seem to be composed of the proper parts. A father and daughter look at a whale in a petstore. The image of a giraffe haunts a man. Language and reality break down. Nonsensical crimes happen in obscure hotel rooms. These parts are wrong. The union of Kafka, Ligotti a ...more
Scott Emerson
Nov 27, 2011 Scott Emerson rated it really liked it
D. Harlan Wilson's collection THEY HAD GOAT HEADS is an either/or proposition; you're either going to love this assemblage of irreality or you'll be baffled and left cold. Which camp you'll fall into depends on your tolerance for absurd, often obtuse fiction, but for the adventurous reader the rewards are many.

GOAT HEADS bursts with a wealth of bizarre imagery and alien, dream-like scenarios. In "Whale--with a Surprise Alternate (Happy) Ending!!!" a father and daughter bond over a whale found in
Anita Dalton
Jun 29, 2011 Anita Dalton rated it it was amazing
I’m unsure even how to begin this discussion. Thematically, I’m completely screwed. So I think I’m going to concentrate on examples of all the story types present in this book.

First, the six-word story. It is also the first story in the book. “6 Word Scifi”:

Mechanical flâneurs goosestep across the prairie.

Thank god I went through a heavy Baudelaire phase or I would have had no idea what a “flâneur” is. As six word stories go, it’s not bad. I think Hemingway still takes first place in my mind (“
Kris Lugosi
Sep 13, 2013 Kris Lugosi rated it liked it
Shelves: lugosi-s-reviews
Very dreamlike story telling. Surreal and hazy at times. Wilson has a very David Lynch way of writing. He falls into a genre of his own dreamscape and tells nightmarish tales through the mind of his own perception.

Not really my cup o tea; lots of the stories reminded me of that exercise where you basically close your eyes open your mind and just write the first things that enter your consciousness and run with it. You can end up with a bunch of nonsensical crap or the basis for something amazing
Jeremy Maddux
Jul 13, 2013 Jeremy Maddux rated it it was amazing
Quite frankly, this was an intimidating collection. How do you refute a Professor of English who boasts that his greatest rivalry is Plot itself?

Most people point to Peckinpah, Kafka Effekt or Stranger On the Loose as their starting point with Wilson. I randomly selected this one as my introduction to his wing of the Bizarro genre. There is only one unifying theme among the pieces, and that is chaos. In this collection, we get a comic strip illustration that involves a monster truck and the Bela
Jun 25, 2011 Katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of bizarro, surreality
Shelves: ebook
Book Info: Genre: Bizarro/Short-story anthology
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of bizarro fiction, surreality

My Thoughts: I can't remember exactly how this book came to my notice, but once I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I was very happy to find it on a free promotion on Amazon and put it into my review queue so I could read it sooner. It has still taken me well over a year to read it.

It's very difficult to review short-story anthologies, because there is no plot or character develo
Jun 19, 2010 Marvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
D. Harlan Wilson is certainly in a class by himself. This collection of short fiction, shorter fiction and flash fiction is all over the place but is full of fantastic imagery, disturbing actions, and quick wit. Even at it's weirdness, and it gets really weird, the author's words flow as this is all very natural. Sometimes there is an effortless feel of loose association even though almost all the stories have some kind of plot involved. My favorite stories are "The Arrest", "Whale", "Hovercraft ...more
Jamie Grefe
Oct 02, 2012 Jamie Grefe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bizarro-fiction
My first experience with D. Harlan Wilson and I'm totally fried, all numb over how much I enjoyed this, just took it down all morning and immediately hungry for more. I kept thinking, Kenneth Patchen gone mad over the cliff with Robert Coover and into the pit of Bizarro heaven--these are just too much fun, too much insanity and precision to properly digest--vivid like mini-films: Kentucky Fried Movie gone bonkers, gone meaningful. I'm a fan, D. Harlan Wilson.
Thomas Baughman
Aug 03, 2010 Thomas Baughman rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, bizarro
This is a fine collection of stories,vignettes and flash fictions that are in turn funny, absurd and menacing. The gems of this collection are: The Arrest, The Movie That Never Was, The Storyteller, P.O. Box 455, Whale!, Quality of Life, and The Kerosine Lantern Tour. In a class by itself is the illustated story called The Sister , in which atrocity is piled upon atrocity in such adead-pan manner to express the horror and absurdity of the modern world.
G. Taylor
Mar 21, 2011 G. Taylor rated it it was amazing
They Had Goat Heads by D. Harlan Wilson - Review by G. Wells Taylor

D. Harlan Wilson’s collection They Had Goat Heads (© 2010 Atlatl Press) almost explodes in your hands. The author’s deft and rapid-fire writing style reaches critical mass in seconds and a literary event of cosmic magnitude occurs. Then you realize you were standing too close: you’re not in real time or space anymore.

Years ago I was lucky enough to review Wilson’s collection, The Kafka Effekt (© 2001 Eraserhead Press), and
Matthew Vaughn
Feb 21, 2012 Matthew Vaughn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bizarro, 2012, reviewed
I spoke in another review that I am not a big fan of the short short fiction, but that doesn’t stop me from reading it. This was the first book I had read from D. Harlan Wilson, and it does contain a couple pieces are of the short short variety, but this book was superb. After reading it my first thought was ‘why have I waited so long to check this author out.’ Thirty-nine stories packed into one hundred and forty-six pages, these streams of conscience pieces will take you places you haven’t bee ...more
Michael William West
Nov 28, 2012 Michael William West rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america
I like things to be forced into boxes, generally speaking, as there are far too many things. Categorisation is useful. I wonder, though, if D. Harlan Wilson's book might benefit from moving out of the 'Bizarro' box and into something bigger and more comfortable. This is a fantastic satire, and through displaying its influences so starkly and confidently (I suspect Harlan Wilson might have Kafka's face paved into his driveway) it manages to be unlike anything else I've read before, really. An Ame ...more
Chris Bowsman
Jun 12, 2010 Chris Bowsman rated it it was amazing
Great collection of flash fiction and short stories. Much of the writing is non-traditional (I don't like to say experimental), but for me, the best stuff is odd despite its straightforward nature. My favorites are "The Arrest," in which 7 men try to arrest each other, and "Chimpanzee," which is very odd and disturbing.

The stories, ranging from six words to several pages all seem appropriate in length, and are complete stories, which is often not the case with flash fiction. Perhaps most import
Oct 18, 2011 David rated it really liked it
These are some intriguing stories. At the very least, they aren't ordinary. Ranging anywhere from absurd to completely surreal, these stories have marvelous images, puzzling leaps, and wild imagination. Some of the stories may be a little further out there than would be my own particular bent, but it was a delight to be able to be befuddled over them for a while. And they do make a kind of sense...which scares me more than anything else about the book.
Autumn Christian
Aug 17, 2014 Autumn Christian rated it really liked it
D. Harlan Wilson is a master of avant-garde, writing like an improv band or a troupe of circus performers. They Had Goat Heads is a collection of chaotic, short excerpts that all seem to be pointing toward:
Life doesn't make much sense, and there is an absurdity in trying to comprise events into cognizant stories.
PLOT is the opposite of life.
A woman riding off in a hovercraft or men with goat heads is no more absurd than the idea of family.

Jul 28, 2013 Rodney rated it liked it
Shelves: atlatl
I wasn't sure how to rate this. It will say it was an entertaining ride, but was not like anything I had read before. The style of writing was new to me. Some of these very short stories had me laughing out loud, and some left me with a bit of a question mark. Either way, I am glad that I chose to read it.
Gregor Xane
Mar 17, 2013 Gregor Xane rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
If you're looking for conventional story structure, look elsewhere. But if you can stomach the surreal, the absurd, and you're fine with reading narratives that only follow the logic of dreams and nightmares, then you'll enjoy this book thoroughly. Every story made me laugh or cringe, or both.
Asphodel Sternberg
Nov 29, 2011 Asphodel Sternberg rated it did not like it
The novelty wore off really fast. I kept noticing lots of repetition of certain obscure words. A quick short story in a magazine is one thing but a whole bunch of this tripe one after another....
No thanks
Sep 20, 2010 Emma rated it it was amazing
A well written piece By D.Harlan Wilson
Collin Henderson
Sep 25, 2016 Collin Henderson rated it liked it
I'm struggling to find anything to say about this book beyond "It's weird."

As a collection of short fiction (the longest story in here is about fifteen pages, but it's also a comic), it's somewhat lacking. Most of the writing is simply stream of consciousness, while others are opaque surreal pieces. As is often the case with collections like this, there are hits and there are misses.

My two personal favorites in the piece are the aforementioned comic "The Sister" and a late in the book piece call
Jan 14, 2015 Stephen rated it did not like it
I REALLY wanted to like this. I mean, the title alone....

Sadly, this short story collection was just a vapid and absurd bunch of situations that did not attempt to cohere into anything meaningful. Which is probably the point - though I feel sorry for anyone (the author included) who thinks this methodology has merit or that this book is good.

Many of the initial ideas that launched the tales were vaguely intriguing. But even worse than going nowhere, they went everywhere. Zero predictability (in
C McDaniel
Nov 27, 2014 C McDaniel rated it really liked it
This collection reminded me a little of "Naked Lunch" in its first few pages (minus the Mugwumps and heroin); I can definitely see the J.G. Ballard influence upon the author, as well. I recommend this collection for when you have found yourself in a "too-traditional" reading rut. Even though I've been reading a lot of what's classified as "Weird" lately, the majority of it has been structured/presented rather conservatively: a fully-developed plot, characters, and a conclusion of some sort, nice ...more
M.P. Johnson
May 27, 2014 M.P. Johnson rated it really liked it
Get Addicted To Bizarro Flash Fiction

Bizarro flash fiction and very short fiction filled with wild imagery. Very addicting and easy to burn through the whole book in a couple of hours or so. Some of the pieces seem like random juxtapositions of insanity. That's cool. My favorites though, oddly enough, are those that stick a little closer to traditional storytelling. "Hog Ripping" is an outright hilarious tale of a man who rips things in half. It's my favorite of the batch. "The Storyteller" seem
Pedro Proença
Nov 04, 2013 Pedro Proença rated it really liked it
Shelves: bizarro, atlatl-press
My brains are scrambled. This book scrambled it.

These are dreams, nightmares, delusions. These are the stuff the homeless whisper to themselves while they roam the streets in search of sustenance.

These are the words that unlock that secret side of our brains and make us dream of murder and violence.

If you liked this things as I described them to you, buy this collection. Now.

I got to go polish my horns and trim my goatee now.

Get it? "Goatee"?
Jul 06, 2015 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
I thought most of the stories were pointlessly ridiculous and stupid. They didn't have a point and none were coherent. It was like a child had opened a word processor and typed everything that came into their head. It was stupid and it is easy to say I hated it. The best thing I can say about it was that it was short.
Lorna Keach
Jul 31, 2012 Lorna Keach rated it really liked it
Hypnotic, disconcerting, diabolically hard to follow, heavy and frivolous. This kind of reading is a different kind of experience. You feel like you're stumbling through a bramble of wordplay and then, once you're out, a haunting, indiscernible mystery is left floating around in your brain. Difficult and awesome.
Donald Armfield
Enter his world again another short story collection from the great D. Harlan Wilson. Living monster trucks, beneath a pink sun, a dead chimpanzee with a balloon celebration and a little gun play.
Wilson's shorts are surreal and hilarious this guy could make a man with the blues laugh and crack a rib. One of my favorite authors.
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I'm a novelist, short story writer, lit critic, editor, playwright, publisher, and English prof. I serve as reviews editor for Extrapolation, a journal of SF criticism, and managing editor of Guide Dog Books, the nonfiction syndicate of Raw Dog Screaming Press. I'm also the editor-in-chief of Anti-Oedipus Press.

Here are my published books: Three Plays (2016), Battle without Honor or Humanity: V
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