I couldn’t pass up on this used first edition of John Barth’s 1966 novel Giles Goat-Boy when I visited Haslam’s Book Store in downtown St. Petersburg over the Thanksgiving break. Here’s the back cover:
There follows the novel proper, which tells how George Giles was born (possibly a computer accident) into a goat herd, made his way into New Tammany College (the world of men), became Grand Tutor and prophet of the West Campus (the Western world as opposed to the Eastern) and, like Don Quixote, Candide, Leopold Bloom, etc., sought the meaning of good and evil, innocence and existence, action and identity, passion and thought.
The message of the syllabus is ambiguous — except perhaps that absolutes are noncognizable, that thinking is a passion and most passionately expressed in humor, and that, except for these, the world is going to hell. Fortunately, it won’t get there because — Mr. Barth proves once more — old jokes never die, they just lie in wait for resurrection. The jokes here — sexual, scatological, gastronomical, existential, political, linguistic, literary conventions and parodies — can be traced to Rabelais, “Tristram Shandy,” Lewis Carroll, Joyce, Nabokov, the Beatles and Bennett Cerf, among others, which should given an idea of the truly astonishing flavor of this lemon meringue pie of a book.