Fourteen year old Ellis lives with his mother in Tucson, sometimes there is a man in her life, his father lives in Washington with another woman. Ellis is about to start boarding school, his only real apprehension is leaving his mother to care for herself, she is far from organised and is likely to forget to pay the bills and Ellis, who is very bright and mature for his age, tends to take the responsibility for making sure everything is taken care of. Although he is also leaving Goat Man (Javier), who lives in the pool house but just looks after the pool and grounds, that is when he is not caring for his greenhouse crop of hybrid pot, or smoking it.
Ellis and Goat Man are very close, Goat Man introduced Ellis to pot when he was eleven, and often takes him on his treks into the desert with the goats.
The account takes us through Ellis' first year at his boarding school including his relationship with Barney his room mate, his school progress and other activates. He also meets with with his father and his new woman, makes a few visits home and the treks with Goat Man, and worries about his mother and her fads and strange relationships.
Goats is well written and captivating, although it just takes us through the workings of the year in the lives of this strange group of for the most part aimless characters and with little overall plot. It is at times funny, or perhaps amusing is a better description, but it is the quality of the writing that really holds ones interest and marks this well above average.
on 25 August 2000
Mark Poirier's "Goats" is as interesting as it is outrageous. Poirier is funny as heck, with a wonderful sense of the absurd. He is a modern southwestern Salinger and Ellis is the Holden Caulfield of the Sonoran desert. He is definitely a writer to follow, let's hope there are more novels in the future.
on 9 January 2002
This book was recommended to me by the owner of my local bookshop and proved a darn fine read. It reminded me of "Catcher in the Rye", but with Holden Caulfield as an 14 year old bong-hitting smart ass kid. The ideas it entertains are imaginative and interesting, as are the characters: the seriously gifted young pothead, the hippy mom, the hippier Goat Man father figure, mom's bisexual gigolo boyfriend and the nerdy school friend. And don't forget the goats. For all the weirdness, it is an easy, compelling read and very accessible. It's funny without losing its sense of irony, and made me think (and feel nostalgic, but that's another story).
on 19 July 2001
Goats has been a very enjoyable read, and i've thoroughly enjoyed it. The book was genuinely touching - not just sentimental, but genuinely stirring. You could read this book for the pure enjoyment, but i think it could also stand up to a more analytical approach - however, decent quotations might be hard to find if you're writing an essay. In this book, what's not said is equally, if not more important than what is actually stated, so you'll want to just sit back and think from time to time.\In conclusion, i loved this book, but felt quite dissapointed by the ending. Ignore the stuff written on the back of the book, its not that simple. Read this book.
on 16 October 2000
A lovely book. The novel centres on that familiar journey from boy to man, but seen through the eyes of 14-year Ellis - a switched on kid with herbal wisdom we could all learn from - you won't feel like you're treading over old ground. New Age mum Wendy, estranged dad 'F****r Frank, 'straight' room mate Barney and the central figure of Goat Man, Ellis moves between Arizona, DC and boarding school reconciling his switched-on brand of youthful idealism with the realisation that the people closest to you aren't always who or what you believed they were. Funny and touching from first to last.
on 10 September 2003
This carries on from his short stories, with some real but funny characters and great images of the American landscape, the side we dont usually see. Its about a kid growing up, the teenage years between 11 & 15 and how he deals with life and changes with it. The kid gets high with his buddy, the Goatman and looks after his scatty mother because dad has flown the coop. Sounds familiar, i know, but this book does not descend into cliche and keeps wrongfooting your opinions on the characters. The scene flips between Tucson and the East Coast as the kid, Ellis goes to prep school and learns to stand on his own 2 feet. The 2 great things about this authors stuff is the drop-dead dry humour and the economy of his descriptions. You laugh out loud in lots of scenes and form a great image of the people and places with the deceptively simple descriptions of everything. It seems like nothing really happens but its a great, absorbing read for anyone who was ever a teenager.
on 31 August 2009
This novel, being the 2nd of Poirier's that I had read (MODERN RANCH LIVING was the first), confirms that the author is one of the best around, especially if you enjoy books about American urban life. Of course there are similarities with Salinger, but that applies to almost everyone who has attempted a coming-of-age novel. I enjoyed the characters and the humour - and the length (so many books are too long these days), and look forward to Poirier's next book.
A few years back I stumbled over and loved Poirier's excellent short story collection, Naked Pueblo-am I'm glad to report his debut novel displays the same strong writing and sympathetically quirky offbeat characters as his short stories. Like his short stories, the book is set primarily in Tucson, although there are chapters in Pennsylvania, and a few short visits to Washington, D.C. The story centers around Ellis, a 14-year-old who is leaving his odd domestic life with his mother in Tucson for a stuffy East Coast boarding/prep school. His upbringing has been somewhat haphazardly managed by Wendy-his hippie turned New Age mother whom he addresses by her first name, of course-and a quiet pothead relic of the early '70s called "Goat Man," who raises hybrid marijuana and goats while living for free in the pool house. His father (commonly referred to as F***er Frank), lives out east and hasn't played much of a role in Ellis's life, so he's mostly relied on Goat Man as his male role model. Goat Man, on the other hand, is mainly a wiser, older brother figure to him, setting him up with all the herb he needs, turning him on to Peter Tosh, and going on goat trekking trips.
Poirier sets this up odd background and proceeds to show Ellis's transformation as he enters the no less bizarre environment of his first year of boarding school. While he finds out that his father isn't as bad as he thought, and that there's more to life than pot, Goat Man engages in a low-intensity war with Wendy's smarmy new boyfriend, Bennet, who wants Goat Man gone. The narrative switches back and forth as both have little adventures, building to a climactic trip to Mexico and goat trek back across the border that highlights the changes Ellis has undergone and the cowardice behind Goat Man's laid-back persona.The story brims with authenticity throughout, from the crew team's erg sessions at prep school to the ornery goats in the desert. Poirier perfectly captures quintessential teenage boy moments like Ellis's first romantic interest and subsequent crushing disillusionment.
As with many coming of age novels, Ellis is often remarkably mature and sensible for his age, but Poirier shows us how came to be this way, living with his space cadet mother (he pays all the bills for her). Indeed, all the characters pop from the page as fully recognizable and sympathetic individuals, from Ellis's father's genuinely nice and bright new girlfriend, to Bennet's wanna-be-slacker/sexpot niece, to Ellis's priggish roommate and his booze-soaked older brother. The pace is languid but compelling, with a sort of deadpan, wry humor coursing throughout. Somehow, Poirier manages to be poignant and charming without being mawkish or sentimental. The three closest books I can think of are Jervey Tervalon's "Living For the City," Chris Fuhrman's "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys," and Tom Perrotta's Bad Haircut.
on 30 January 2014
Well-observed characters, very readable despite the slightly off-beat subject matter. Not completely convinced by the ending but hard to know how else to finish it!