Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: "Giles Goat-Boy" by John Barth


My thoughts on post modern books have shown up in my reviews before, so I won’t have a need to go into to them too much, except to say that John Barth’s fourth novel, Giles Goat-Boy, really falls right in the middle of my feelings for this subgenre of literature. I have read Barth’s first two novels, The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, and can say, years later, that they were pretty good, The Floating Opera especially. They are simple stories that talk about big human issues with grace and wit, even when things get really dark. I haven’t read his breakout novel, The Sot-Weed Factor, or any of his shirt stories that my friend Chad really likes, but I’m not in too big of a hurry, because no matter how inventive and sprawling this odd story gets, or how self-satirical it becomes, it still is too much like the ideas it is poking fun at. The story, which is the craziest you may come across, is about a feral boy named Billy Bockfuss, who was birthed by a super-computer called WESCAC (think Skynet but zanier), only to grow up raised in a family of Billy goats near New Tammany College, taken care of by former professor Max. As he grows up, he wants to become a real person, and takes the name George Giles, in an effort to infiltrate the college and stop WESCAC. The plot is beyond nonsensical, but luckily not all the time, with a full parody of Oedipus Rex playing out on the college campus, reminiscent of The Paranoids in The Crying of Lot 49. But most of its 700 pages feels every scrape of that arduous length, and the reason for this book’s neglect becomes clear. It’s not the worst I have read, but if you want to read a John Barth book, by God, don’t start with this one.

Rating: 3/5

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