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Giles Goat Boy (The Anchor Literary Library) Paperback – August 18, 1987


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Product Details

  • Series: The Anchor Literary Library
  • Paperback: 750 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Anchor Books ed edition (August 18, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385240864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385240864
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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).

From the Inside Flap

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).

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David Harr on September 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
First, let it be said that John Barth's work is hilarious and that Giles Goatboy is his best, in my opinion. Much of the humor is rooted in his insightful view of life, love, and the seeming futility of it all. Giles Goatboy offers up the microcosm of academia as the stage upon which the Greek tragedy of all our lives is played. The only real redeeming features in Barth's worldview are the laughs he rummages out of the ashes of nihilism, and his wicked, self-deprecating sense of humor. However, his works ultimately offer up a depressingly futile vision of life. His humor makes his perspective palatable, in fact, tasty, but I often find myself hoping that for his sake, Mr. Barth has more hope than his novels portray
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Heavy Theta on February 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
It took me a couple of starts to get past the first twenty pages of this book, but the persistence was well repayed. Over the course of a few works (Sot-Weed, End of the Road, Letters) Barth was one of the great powers of modern literature. Goat-Boy finds him in peak form. The longevity of his computer/campus framework, and the wisdom of his "if it ain't broke" philosophy are subject to worthy discussion, but anybody who can get away with slapping a Lord Buckley styled hipster take on Oedepus Rex right in the middle just to show off his emense skill is beyond bold. Brazen in all the best ways.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on October 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was my first exposure to Barth but based on this it certainly won't be my last. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but what I can understand I find myself liking quite a bit. For those who have no idea about this book, it's basically the "quest" of Giles to reprogram the evil WESAC computer that is messing with the New Tammany College campus and even that brief blurb isn't enough to give this book ample justice. The plot is mostly straightforward, to me at least but the layers of satire that wrap around everything give the book greater depth, just when you think you've got it pegged as one thing, Barth gives a sly clue and it all shifts. Is it merely a big joke on the Cold War, or a comment on our culture in general. Or neither. The novel encompasses religion, sex, culture, war, just about everything you can think of and the humor is dark and bitter and at the same time hilariously funny, Giles is the perfect narrator and his observations are both hugely innocent and slyly subversive. The ultimate quest of stopping the computer becomes unimportant when you consider the events that it takes to get there and if there's any book with a more real yet wildly fantastic set of characters, I haven't read it, just when you think that he's treating them all as one big joke, a stray comment or an action reminds you that these are supposed to be real characters. As you can probably tell, this is a novel that you can't go in with any preconceptions, and if you do a lot of it will probably be lost on you. It's a massively dense read and took me almost two months (not because it was difficult, that weird time thing you see) but never once did I think of not finishing it. Definitely worth the time put into it and you can get the time, don't hesitate!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on April 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This theological, philosophical, sociological mélange of political (Cold War or "Quiet Riot") satire, of a sort, wordplay and quasi-Bildungsroman and whatever else it may or may not be, all coded into a cutesy academese, didn't do too much for me---except make me laugh, along with it, not at it.

I think one of the other reviewers was spot on in assessing Barth's version of Oedipus Rex, or, excuse, "Taliped Decanus", to be the summit of the book. As for the rest of it, I think the best way to read it comes from GGB (the character, not the book) on page 207, in my copy:

"It was not my habit to think in a directed manner, but rather to brood on whatever images came to mind as were unbid: not to manipulate and question them, but to attend like an interested spectator their links and twinings..."

And brood Barth does upon every philosophical, theological, sociological, political (no doubt I'm leaving something out here) link and twining in the universe or "University", but all in good fun with enough high jinks and drollery to keep one turning the pages.

Occasionally, Barth will even hit home with a moving passage like the following:

"`Anastasia...' The name seemed strange to me now, and her hair's rich smell. What was it I held, and called Anastasia? A slender bagful of meaty pipes and pouches, grown upon with hairs, soaked through with juices, strung up on jointed sticks, the whole thing pushing, squirting, bubbling, flexing, combusting, and respiring in my arms; doomed soon enough to decompose into its elements, yet afflicted in the brief meanwhile with mad imaginings, so that, not content to jelly through the night and meld, ingest, divide, it troubled its sleep with dreams of passedness, of love..." p.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Prince Mu-Chao (princemuchao@hotmail.com) on April 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
Giles Goat-Boy (or the Revised New Syllabus) By John Barth (or maybe WESCAC) "A-Plus!"
This tremendous book opened with a "message from the publisher", declaring that two of their five associate editors quit over the decision to publish this book and included a written statement from each editor about their opinion of the book. Even though that set up the book (in my mind) to be much more raunchy and heathenistic than I thought it actually was, it was an extremely amusing addition to an already great book.
The story begins in a goat barn and we meet our hero Billy, George and GILES, alternatively. Max, an old Moishian (Jew) brought up Billy as a goat intentionally in order to shield him from human misery. After meeting a human woman, Billy decides he wants to become learned.
This story uses a university as an allegory for the Universe and everything within - religion, politics and literature - follows that same allegory. One is "passed" instead of "saved" and "flunked" instead of "damned". The political leader is, of course, the Dean. God is the Founder and Satan is the Dean O' Flunks. Oedipus Rex and the Emperor's New Clothes (which both figure strongly in the story) are, respectively, Taliped Decanus and the Chancellor's New Gown.
Throughout the story is mention of the "Quiet Riot" New Tammany College is having with their neighboring Student-Unionist College. Both have Super computers, one WESCAC and the other EASCAC, that can EAT (steal the vital energy) of humans.
It turns out the goat boy decides he is the next Grand Tutor (messiah) and travels to New Tammany College to declare himself as such.
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