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Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt Paperback – March 13, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (March 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136725
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tristan Egolf's first novel is an unsparing view of life in a town where inbred Appalachia and Middle America overlap and intermingle. John Kaltenbrunner, an only child, is born on the heels of his father's death. At an unusually early age, the boy shows a flair for farming and a desire to be left alone, two things that make people pick on him in increasingly vicious ways. John's life plan is to drop out of school when he hits 16 and mind his own business. But he loses everything, alienates everyone, and through a series of increasingly outrageous mishaps winds up serving three years work-release felony time on a river barge. When he comes home to Baker, no one recognizes him:
John had expected, maybe even hoped for, a little something more to herald his arrival--some burning crosses or lynch mobs on the lawn, a coven of Methodists to picket his re-entry, a banner-wielding committee from the school board, anything at all. But to his disbelief, he found the streets quiet and empty.
The streets don't stay that way for long as the tale truly turns on the garbage strike organized by John and his gang of fellow misfits. As a result, Baker comes apart at the seams and all the citizenry reveal their true natures. In his singular debut, Tristan Egolf demonstrates an unschooled flair for storytelling, which earned him accolades--and even a comparison to Céline--when the novel was published in France. True, his characters are cutouts with few surprises, including dialogue (there isn't any). But there is plenty of room in these pages to admire a wild and imaginative look at a slice of life cut from the underbelly of Middle America. --Schuyler Engle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The growing legend surrounding the author (he was discovered by the daughter of prominent French novelist Patrick Modiano; see "Hot Deals," Aug. 24) threatens to create unusually high expectations for this bright but uneven debut novel published first in England. It's a wild ride of a book, prone to stretches of excess, but also possessed of a manic, epic energy. It begins ferociously, thrusting the reader into the aftermath of the explosive melee that has torn apart Baker, a Midwestern town besotted by ne'er-do-wells and thieving churchgoers and rotting with municipal decay. As the narrative works backward, the "notorious" John Kaltenbrunner becomes the focus of the story. Described by his peers as "the freak on the tractor, the corncrib fascist, the troglodytic goatroper from just north of the river," John is a driven, determined boy who proves capable of single-handedly reviving an entire farm by the age of nine. In dysfunctional Baker, however, John draws ire in direct proportion to his prodigious talents. Soon he's been run off his land, siphoned penniless and exiled to a floating work-camp on a blighted river. John eventually returns to Baker, only to find the town as horror-stricken as ever. After washing out of innumerable menial jobs, John finally obtains work as a garbage collector, which leads to a lengthy showdown between the "Hill Scrubs" (John and his fellow garbagemen) and the rest of the community. Soon the town is awash in garbage and John and his fellows are hunted men. Told from the point of view of one of the locals, the novel reads much like an eyewitness account made available for the public record. What drives this book at times also derails it, as Egolf's gift for depicting comic misfortune?initially entrancing?suffers from overuse. By the book's latter half the disasters have become expected, the tropes repetitive and John's growth as a character stunted. Despite this, Egolf's robust and intoxicating prose shows great promise.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book is as good as it gets.
unnecessary
Tristan Egolf was an insightful, at times brilliant writer, with a true gift for wordplay and a wry, sardonic sense of humor.
P. Thomas
At first, actually for the first 300 pages or so, I thought this was one of the best books I had read in years.
syarger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Snorri Wolfersson on May 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
.......I just read that Tristan Egolf, the author, shot himself to death a few days ago. I loved this book for its manic energy and its attention to the details of the assembly line killing and processing of domesticated animals. I can't even imagine standing knee deep in turkey blood slicing off heads all day long for a living. In an odd way this book celebrates individual capitalism and old fashioned gumption like no other. The protagonist studies, tries and fails, tries and succeeds, learns, becomes hopelessly isolated, and gets caught at the wrong end of the paranoia stick more than once. The parallel story track details the assembly line killing of the human spirit which occurs when despair and emotional fragility combine with the quest for the almighty dollar in odd ways in a person's thought process. I enjoyed the energy and the constant seeking for knowledge of the title character. This was truly a fascinating work and I am quite saddened that such an original, twisted, seeking voice has been lost to us all. RIP Tristan.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Christopher A. Smith on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Surely not the most polished novel that you are likely to read this year, and literary purist will frown at Egolf's overblown style and dialogue-free prose. Egolf is often ham-fisted and can be sloppy with the details (upon reading the climax you'll wonder if Egolf has ever even *seen* a basketball game).
But those flaws notwithstanding, Egolf has written an audacious jet-fueled debut which is somehow all the more compelling for it's absurdity. Those reviewers who have criticized the novel have said little which I would directly contradict (no, there is no dialogue; yes, the characters are one dimensional) but somehow the sheer energy and inventiveness of the novel kept me glued throughout its four hundred pages.
Lord of the Barnyard is an Appalachian Confederacy of the Dunces on crack cocaine. Egolf uses sheer creativity and his raw intelligence to muscle his way though a rollercoaster plot that takes us on a whirlwind tour of John Kaltenbrunner's backwoods heroism and larger than life exploits.
And the novel is funny! It made me laugh!
Egolf is a smart writer with talent. Hats off to him for this gutsy first novel, flaws and all; I look forward to reading his future work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book was my favorite novel of 1998. Before it hits the american market, the book is already out in dutch translation.
Lord of the Barnyard is hard to describe. It is a demolition derby of the soul, a guided tour of hell (no giftshop) and immensely sensitive at that.
As every good writer, Egolf has the power to infect you with his worldview. Makes it unescapable. After putting the novel away the world looks like a desolate place. Egolf writes like Marquez on bad acid, or Hunter S. Thompson going cold turkey. Long, weird sentences, summing up years of misery in a couple of strange images. The plot is fascinating albeit incidental, its not the point of this novel. This novel is about the power of writing, about taking the world by its balls and yanking them until it vomits. Dirty, beautiful and unforgettable. Hard to believe this is the first work of a young writer.
Buy it, and be amazed. Think the novel as an artform is dead? Think again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I discovered this tome during a rather miserable trip to tropical, sunny Cairns (Australia). It was about the only thing that stopped me from running accross the road in the middle of the night, setting free all the poultry farm chickens, then running back to peel all the lizards off the exterior wall and drowning them in the pool.
In Lord of the Barnyard, Egolf weaves a tale of misfortune, destruction, putrification and assertion so involving, intense, and breathless (as much from the narrative as trying to read the free-flowing, pin-wheeling, and exceedingly wordy sentences aloud to my sister) that you can't help but be drawn in. I don't see it as highly likely that even, or especially, John Kaltenbrunner's early exploits would ever be possible, but somehow, it just seems perfecly reasonable.
Explaining this book is as impossible as any of John's deeds. I suppose it's fitting that it has yet to be released in the country in which it's set.
A book for thinking people who relish the self-mocking edge of post-modernism. But if you're into the surprise twist at the ending thing, or you need to be able to identify with the book's main character/hero, look elsewhere. You have been warned...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. W. Zeininger on August 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This was just such an unusual and strange book. I liked how Egolf expects the reader to be intelligent and I loved how dark his comedy could get. This book was so enjoyable to me because I got to see John Kaltenbrunner dish out revenge on all of those who put him down throughout his life. It was cathartic. One of the best books I've read in my lifetime, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
'Lord' is one of those books that you wish would go on forever. Egolf's unique writing style brings this twisted tale to life with color and wit. His storytelling hurdles you into the eccentric, white-trash, Middle American town, named Baker, that you will come to love and dispise at the same time. With a hilarious and ingenious plot, wonderfully crafted characters, and amazing metaphors and imagery, Tristan's rollercoaster of a debut book is a force in the literary world to be reckoned with. This IS storytelling at its best!
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