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

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Series: The Anchor Literary Library
  • Paperback: 750 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Anchor Books ed edition (September 18, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385240864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385240864
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any attempt to describe John Barth’s “Giles Goat-Boy” (GGB) is going to oversimplify what is a vast, complex masterpiece of a book. Nevertheless, here goes: GGB is a treatise on philosophy, religion, ethics and the nature of truth and knowledge, seen through the lens of Cold War politics where all aspects of geography and society are transposed into a university setting, as experienced by a young man raised as a goat who is coming of age. It sounds impossible, but instead it is brilliant.

Philosophy and religion are at the very core of GGB. Through the interactions of various characters and references to thinly-disguised historical figures, Barth explores many of the key questions that have occupied deep thinkers for centuries, as far back as ancient Greece. In GGB Barth even rewrites the play “Oedipus Rex” in a manner that entirely appropriate for its new setting in the novel. But if Barth were to restrict his focus to just religion, philosophy and ancient Greek classics, he would likely have produced a very dry tome. Instead, Barth weaves in storylines concerning Cold War politics and campus life which should be intimately familiar to anyone who attended college in the past fifty years. Then he creates a fascinating protagonist, the title character, and sends him on an epic quest filled with battles, conquests and lustful pursuit. Finally, at all times, Barth’s highly developed and observant sense of humor shines through, providing further impetus for the reader to keep turning the pages.

As is true with Barth’s other lengthy tomes (e.g. “The Sot Weed Factor”), Giles Goat-Boy rewards attentive reading, ideally in closely-spaced long sittings, so that the reader reaches the conclusion without having forgotten too much of the beginning.
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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's wonderful to see major classics such as Giles Goat Boy readily available again as e-books! I first read Giles when it was on the best-sellers lists in the '60s, and have long wondered if I would still be as impressed with it today. In practice, there are a few aspects that are annoyingly dated, but it is still an amazing piece of work that is well worth reading by anybody who appreciates virtuosity in writing.
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