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The Ghost Apple: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 162040527X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620405277
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Through an insanely fun mixture of pseudo-historical letters, blog posts, emails, newsletters, advertisements, and even course listings, Thier takes readers on a dark tour of life at Tripoli College in New England and its Caribbean island proxy school on the fictional St. Renard. Tripoli was founded in 1794 due to the guilty conscience of the grandson of a St. Renard sugarcane plantation owner. Now, a CFO with a gambling penchant has squandered the college’s resources, and the board decides to accept funding from Big Anna, a snack food giant with dubious business practices. The story of slave conditions in the island campus’ “field studies,” the minutes of faculty meetings held hostage by a psycho English professor, and the blog posts of a kindly 70-year-old dean of students posing as a college freshman help fill out the details of this raucous adventure. By drawing on historical documents about visitors to the West Indies and slave narratives, Thier brings authenticity to his unusual tale of a school gone off the rails. --Laurie Borman


"[A] mordant and mischievous satire . . . [set] amid the wild dysfunction and navel-gazing self-delusion of academia . . . The Ghost Apple does what satire is meant to do. It makes us laugh and it makes us think. Thier renders a deranged world that we recognize as our own." —Boston Globe

"Insanely fun . . . [A] raucous adventure." —Booklist

"Hilarious . . . with a razor-sharp wit." — Library Journal

"Academic satire meets anti-globalization polemic . . . [in] an improbable laugh riot." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

"Loopy course descriptions, the minutiae of faculty meetings, blurbs from the school newspaper, et al., create a delicious texture and form the structure of the book . . . Hilariously deadpan . . . A droll comedy of modern manners, incisive without being angry, this satire within satire within satire will delight." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Had Donald Barthelme written Absalom, Absalom!, this is it." —Padgett Powell, author of The Interrogative Mood and You & Me

"This is a damn good novel. It's patient, weird, fun and, most of all, smart. It had me from the first line." —Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier and Percival Everett by Virgil Russell

"Antic, darkly funny, and—like all the best satire—deadly serious beneath its surface, this unusually inventive debut reads like a classic campus novel shredded, set on fire, and rebuilt by Jonathan Swift." – Andrea Barrett, National Book Award winner, author of Archangel

"As deadpan as Donald Barthelme’s best work and as antic as John Barth’s, The Ghost Apple provides further compelling evidence, for those who still need it, of the ways in which our most cherished and trusted institutions always manage to facilitate the process of sending our world to hell in a hand basket.  Aaron Thier is a smart and funny and passionate new voice." —Jim Shepard, National Book Award finalist, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway

"A meditation on globalization, higher education, slavery, disease, and the addictive effects of all-you-can-eat pudding, this novel is at once lyrical and satirical, formally inventive and steeped in tradition. It is the sort of book that makes you laugh only until you realize how sharp its bite is." – David Leavitt, author of The Two Hotel Francforts

More About the Author

Aaron Thier was born in Baltimore and raised in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His essays have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, and The Buenos Aires Review. He is a graduate of Yale University and of the MFA program at the University of Florida.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most outrageous novels I have read in quite some time. Not only is it a satire on neoliberalism, colonialism, higher education, and corporate greed, but it is also filled with pathos that seeps between the cracks...or, rather, my cracking up at Thier's irascible, sardonic wit! THE GHOST APPLE is sheer entertainment, transparent in the most casually ironic and bald-faced, brazen of ways.

When I read, at the start of this mash-up, culturally hip novel, "Founded in 1794 as a free school for Native Americans, Tripoli opened its doors to tuition-paying students of all backgrounds in 1795," I knew I was in for a clever and cunning story. It begins with a letter from the founder of the school, Israel Framingham Tripoli, grandson of John Morehead Tripoli, a man who was marooned on the Caribbean island of St Renard and well taken care of by the Carawak Indians for a year, until he was (unfortunately, for him) saved. His grandson intended for this school to be a free school for the education of the Wapahanock Indians.

Now, three centuries later, the American Tripoli college, as well as its proxy on St Renard, is nothing less than an abomination of greed and mandatory slave labor, veiled by its propaganda of "field studies" for students. On St. Renard, sugar cane is harvested by the natives, who work alongside of the students (and never allowed to speak to them). Big Anna, a huge corporation of sugar-intensive foods disguised as all-natual and nutritious, sponsors it all, since Tripoli College agreed to a financial relationship with them during the economic downturn. Big Anna professes to be "green" and use sustainable practices for their manufacturing of foods. Yes, well, hmmm...

Moreover, a dietary supplement is harvested on St.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin R. on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is hilarious from start to finish, but don't be fooled: This is not the deadening tongue-in-cheek humor that leaves the reader at the comfortable ironic distance that is the norm these days. Instead, the Ghost Apple is a reminder of the importance and power of satire. Thier uses humor to drive home very painful truths, not to let the reader self-satisfiedly off the hook.

The Ghost Apple masterfully skewers academe and globalization with an insightful wit that leaves the reader feeling both in on the joke and complicit in the tragedy. The novel makes us laugh hard and take a hard look at our actions as well. In the end, Thier forgives our failings and demands we do better, and his novel so thoroughly persuades your mind and wins over your heart, that--once you manage to stop laughing--it's a demand you'll have a hard time ignoring.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on March 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
this book seems to represent earnest grappling with how to live in the world. more importantly, it's funny and original, a collage of historical and fantastic voices that transport you. although intoxicating, the novel is not entirely disorienting because of a familiar setting (a parodic version of your college campus) and a recurring character (the undercover dean) you will adore.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By motorneuron on March 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
On the one hand, this is a great book: it is funny and sharp while remaining deeply felt. On the same hand, I am inclined to disagree with John Calhoun, who believes that Thier "ignores the complexity of the issue." Complexity is exactly what Thier embraces, and that is good. A novel about slavery and global capitalism would be uninteresting if it didn't have a strong dose of history. And it made me laugh out loud many times. I think there is a little undercover dean in each of us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really good twisted satire - the use of irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize vices and shortcomings -- is not the easiest thing to pull off. Often, it either takes itself too seriously or it collapses under sophomoric humor. But in Ghost Apple, debut author Aaron Their gets it just right.

Through a varied collection of historical accounts, newspaper excerpts, blog posts, slave narratives and personal letters, the tale of Tripoli College emerges. The school has just been taken over by the corporate snack food/pharma giant, Big Anna®, with woeful consequences for idealistic students.

The 70-year-old dean, William Brees, dyes his hair and goes undercover to better understand student life. There he develops a crush on an attractive and privileged African-American student, Maggie, who already has a crush on her activist professor, John Kabaka. All the while, Big Anna® is stampeding over student rights, taking political correctness to laughable extremes, conducting field studies on unsuspecting students on St. Renard in the Caribbean, and perpetuating atrocities just about everywhere it steps.

Aaron Thier has the cadence of corporate and administrative communication down pat - using words to obfuscate true meanings. How can you not laugh out loud with this special promotional feature sponsored by the St. Renard Ministry of Tourism ("Finally, don't leave St. Renard without sampling the delicacies of our bright blue sea. Head down to the wharf in Port Kingston or visit some of the nearby alleyways, for fresh-caught seafood. Some species of fish are so endangered, you could be the last person who ever tastes them!
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