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The Horse's Mouth Hardcover – June 6, 1984

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the First Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Comic novel by Joyce Cary, published in 1944. It was the third volume in a trilogy that included Herself Surprised (1941) and To Be a Pilgrim (1942). The book's protagonist, Gulley Jimson, is an iconoclastic artist consumed with the creative process who rejects the predictable and conventional in art. He does not hesitate to use people to achieve his ends... --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

From the Publisher

One of Cary's most memorable novels--the uproarious tale of Gulley Jimson, artist, genius, con man, and aging lover. From "one of the outstanding humorous writers of the century."--The Modern Age --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Amereon Ltd; 1St Edition edition (June 6, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0884113116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0884113119
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,327,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Horse's Mouth is the concluding volume in Joyce Cary's first trilogy. It is the story of Gully Jimson, a gifted artist but a selfish and erratic man. However, his sense of humor, even at his own misfortunes, make him an interesting character. Although this is the third volume in a trilogy, you need not have read the first two to enjoy this one. When you have read the trilogy, however, you will appreciate Cary's ability to create characters who view the world in distinct ways. As a painter, Jimson has a strong visual sense, and so this book has much more detailed descriptions of what he sees than is provided by the narrators of the first two books in the trilogy.
Jimson is a thoroughly believable artist, who is in many ways a scoundrel but who also possesses a genuine creative gift. He reminds us of the great gap that often exists between the artists who create and the staid academics who later analyze their works. The book is a minor classic, and The New York Review of Books should be congratulated at restoring it to print, as it has with a number of other important, but out of print, novels. If you read this book, you will certainly want to go back and read the others in the trilogy, Herself Surprised and To Be a Pilgrim.
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Format: Hardcover
Gulley Jimson is an artistic genius. Not too many people in the novel realize it, except, perhaps, for a down and out art critic who wants to introduce him to the world and for a stammering young man, nicknamed Nosey, who idolizes and persistently follows Gulley around to the latter's constant annoyance. Although some reviewers call Gulley Jimson a con artist, he himself is "conned" out of a number of his paintings, which is used for payment of back rent money, while he languishes helplessly in jail. Gulley, 67 years old and ill, believes he might finally enter the pantheon of great English artists in a final "creation" that, if it succeeded, could be compared to Michaeangelo great Sistine Chapel mural. Gulley's dream is a great one, and the reader must decide at the book's ironic end whether Gulley succeeded or failed to achieve his ambition.

The novel is peopled with many picaresque Dickensian characters, besides, of course, Gulley Jimson himself. In addition to the aforementioned art critic and Nosey, there is his ex-wife who modelled for him years before, a woman bartender, a poor "philosopher-king" who loves to quote Spinoza, a wealthy and aristocratic old and somewhat gullible British couple who are Gulley's patrons, and many others. "The Horse's Mouth" is a wonderful novel of great heart. This is so in spite of (or maybe because of) the main character's perceived character flaws.
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Format: Paperback
Gulley Jimson is a totally rad main character! I've never seen a profile of an artist this imaginative and complete. Gulley lives and breathes and climbs off the page right into your reality. He is obsessed with painting--he sees things he wants to paint everywhere and he describes it all in beautiful detail. This would be annoying in any other book. But Gulley is such a charmer, and Cary so talented, that as Gulley scrapes through life in his odd way, you forgive him his many faults. He's an artist after all. He perpetrates plenty of injustices himself, of course, but you appreciate his personality and philosophy so much, that you want to cut him a break.
One of the many masterful touches Joyce Cary uses is to always have Gulley working on a significant painting. It gets you to root for Gulley to do something even bigger than his one famous painting, and it makes you sympathize with the real people who put up with artists. But Gulley can't win. He is painting The Fall and it gets used to patch the roof of his hovel. He's painting Lazarus at the Grave and he has to flee from a crash-pad turned sour. He's going to sell a sketch of The Bath and instead manages to murder his only love. He's painting The Creation and the city comes and knocks the wall down. It is beautiful. Cary frames the whole novel with various potential masterworks that Gulley is painting, and in each one you see how life gets in the way of art, and how random are the winds of fortune.
We read this book in my book club and we agreed that it was one of the best of the 20 or so we've so far read together. I'm curious about the other two in Cary's trilogy. This is very much a complete work in itself, but I understand from the introduction that as a series it's even more illuminating.
This NYRB edition is printed on quality paper that stays white for a long time (I got my copy used and it's still very nice). Which is great, because you'll probably want to keep this book.
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Format: Paperback
It's often been said that Cary's novel is the best ever written about a painter and the process he goes through in creating his art. The genius of the novel is that Gulley Jimson is such an unlikable character, given to violent fits of temper, all the while he is possessed of genuine genius and immense talent. The book is hilariously funny, but Jimson's misdeeds dangerously increase as the novel continues to the point where the reader starts wondering why he or she is laughing anymore, and begins to see the troubling ethical questions the novel poses about the relation of genius to morality.
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Format: Hardcover
Our narrator in this masterpiece is the unique and insightful Gulley Jimson, a distinctly unclassifiable "modern artist." We often laugh, sometimes cry, while we learn his views on society, government, art, life. His journey through London in the late 30s and life in the late 60s is like his description of art: neither true nor false, but created. The two first books in this trilogy are fun and have the same set of lively characters, but are not necessary for this masterpiece.
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