Ninety-Nine Novels: Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this third episode, Graham Foster of the Burgess Foundation talks to novelist David Morrell about Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth.
Giles Goat-Boy is simultaneously one of the most revered and complex postmodern novels of the 1960s, and a strange patchwork of allegories, from the Bible to the events of the Cold War. Burgess describes the book as a ‘work that extends the scope of the novel – or rather reminds it of the scope it has lost, along with a whimsical fantasticality best exemplified in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.’
David Morrell is best known for his novel First Blood, which introduced the world to John Rambo, later played by Sylvester Stallone in a series of films. He completed his PhD thesis on the novels of John Barth, which was later published as John Barth: An Introduction. More recently he has written a series of crime novels featuring the famed opium-eater Thomas de Quincy. This trilogy, beginning with Murder as a Fine Art, is available now from Mulholland Books. John Barth: An Introduction is currently available as an ebook.
Books mentioned in this episode:
By John Barth:
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (1949)
- The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama by Lord Raglan (1936)
- ‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way’ in Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace (1989)
- Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1939)
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
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The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.