“This is a breathtaking book, a rough ride over the emotions of adolescence and the brutal business of being an American man. Land's voice is distinct, melancholic, and original; the book is a wonderful debut.”—Susan Orlean
"An incredible memoir– riveting and relentless, shocking, brutal, just savagely good. And yet. Beautiful and brave."—Augusten Burroughs, bestselling author of Running with Scissors
"This is the most astonishing debut I've ever read. Goat is beguiling, brutal and tender at once. By giving us an honest portrait of the love between brothers, Brad Land holds up a mirror to the lie of false fraternity."—Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy
"At once harrowingly violent and heartachingly tender, Brad Land's memoir throws you into a world where brutality, love, loneliness, anger, brotherhood and a desire to belong are inextricably and fatally entwined. As a narrator, Land is able to articulate his inner turmoil with an honesty that is as riveting as it is disarming. Goat should be required reading for every scared, isolated, naive teenage boy who thinks that joining a fraternity might solve his problems. And required reading for anyone who's ever loved someone they didn't understand."—Thisbe Nissen, author of The Good People of New York
“Written with a heart seared with pain and a pen filled with passion, Brad Land's tale is street-fight brutal and gut-wrench tragic. It is a book that every teenager should read and every parent must read, especially those of us with sons. Goat never lets go. It rips and shreds us with blade-sharp dialogue and a relentless pace, all the while exposing the bravest of souls and the most gentle of hearts.”—Lorenzo Carcaterra, author of Gangster and Street Boys
“Brad Land's talent as a writer is his ability to be completely vulnerable on the page, yet command absolute control over his language. It is taut, lean, and suggestive of a highly refined intelligence grounded in instinct. Goat is a book of great muscularity, bearing witness to the violence our culture enacts in the name of ritual. Brad Land shows us through the strength of his storytelling that cruelty not only kills, but maims our souls, one victim at a time.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Leap and Red– Passion and Patience in the Desert
From the Hardcover edition.
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Brad Land is a young man in search of escape, and looking forward to attending Clemson University with his younger brother, Brett. But one night, as he's leaving a party, Brad crosses paths with the wrong people and is brutally assaulted; his wounds are not only physical but psychological as well.
In the lonely, terrifying aftermath of the attack, Brad licks his wounds at home. Brett has gone ahead to Clemson and quickly joins a fraternity. Initially derailed by the crime, Brad's college plans materialize, and he is rapidly swept up in Brett's world of rush parties. Brad endures cruel, dehumanizing hazing rituals in an attempt to live up to his younger brother. But to Brad's dismay, Brett keeps his distance; he understands that acceptance in the fraternal world can only be won alone.
Land's spare language, drawing comparisons to A Million Little Pieces and Fight Club, never loses the delicate thread of complicated emotions he feels, perfectly highlighting the vulnerability of a young man forced to face the violence inflicted upon him. When the fraternity brothers turn their unique brand of savagery on one of Brad's fellow pledges with disastrous results, he must confront a painful choice: to accept the false refuge of becoming one of "them" or to cast himself out, seeking courage and strength in kindness, rather than in "belonging."
(Winter/Spring 2004 Selection)
Perhaps Land should be applauded for refusing to fall into jostling step with male memoirists like Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors), a bawdy raconteur who turns personal humiliation into a great occasion to entertain, or James Frey, whose A Million Little Pieces is a staccato, tough-guy recounting of his physical (not psychological) feats of endurance as a recovering Olympian substance abuser. Land is more focused on his psychological weakness, and this is daring; it risks his appearing unsympathetic or even pathetic. Considering the book's maudlin temperament, and the way the interior landscape of an unstable mind overpowers external events, Goat actually has more in common with an autobiographical novel by a dead female poet -- namely, The Bell Jar.
With a uniquely hip narrative style, gritty with plenty of heart, Land recounts what it's like to pledge a fraternity in order to gain his peers' respect and admiration. Complicating matters, Land has never recovered from an earlier assault, in which the trusting and na ve 20-year-old picks up two strangers in need of a ride, who proceed to rob, beat and abduct him. Traumatized, Land doesn't receive sympathy from police, who insist the kidnapping must be linked to wrongdoing on his part. His assailants, whom Land wryly nicknames "the smile" and "breath," are later captured, but the crime's emotional fallout dogs Land as he tries to move on, deepening his attachment to his younger, self-centered brother, Brett, who betrays him at every chance, including going after his fragile sibling's girlfriend. When Brett leaves for Clemson and joins a fraternity, Kappa Sigma, the author follows, thinking it will help him fit in with others and heal, but barbaric hazing rituals of humiliation and intimidation revive the phobias linked to his abduction. As the abuse against new pledges ("goats") continues, Land questions the value of the frat group's thinking, the surrendering of one's will to violence and his desperate need to belong, especially after another pledge dies of a heart attack following an intense round of hazing. In the end, Land, now 27, walks away from it all, reclaiming himself from his dark past and brutally bleak present. Immensely readable, Land's tough yet tender book speaks to the fears and isolation of young alienated adults with compelling power, candor and compassion. Agent, Bill Clegg. (On sale Feb. 17) Forecast: A national print and radio campaign, ad blitz in the leading alternative media and an online outreach to students could make Land's book a hit with the college crowd and recent grads. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This is the story of two brutal and shocking events-the night Land was beaten and left for dead at age 19 and, a few years later, the semester of hazing and torture that he suffered while pledging a fraternity at Clemson University (SC). In the hands of a less skilled writer, it would be too gruesome for many readers. Land, however, writes with artistry and gives meaning to the violence, in turn speaking to the darkest side of American life. His inability to say no results in his near-fatal beating (a couple of strangers ask him for a ride from a party)-and his resultant mental incapacitation perhaps allows him to tolerate the abuse during pledging. This is a scathing indictment of the entire fraternity system at Clemson: beatings, sexual escapades, and rampant alcoholism are the norm on campus. Throughout the rush, Land is the "goat," the pledge who never fits in, and underlying his angst is his inability to "hook up" with women. The estrangement from his younger brother, already in the fraternity, builds, and in the end, a different pledge dies of an alleged heart attack (he was only 18). This is one of those impossible-to-put-down books, though readers may need to take a breather from the violence and graphic language; conversations and comments are as brutally frank as the story itself. This will be widely read as one of the first books about assaults on men. Clemson should not be proud. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/03.]-Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Land's memoir about fraternity hazing and his relationship with his charismatic, more confident younger brother, Brett, has received a lot of publicity. However, in spite of all the hype, it is not well written and it's unlikely to resonate with most teens. Brad, 19, recovering from a vicious assault by two hitchhikers he picked up, decided to follow Brett to Clemson University. The steely, mysterious sophomore was a Kappa Sigma, and an admiring, uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin Brad decided to pledge the same frat. Teens will either identify and sympathize with Brad or become increasingly annoyed with his naivete. Getting Vaseline smeared in one's hair and being pegged with footballs will probably (if unfortunately) not seem terribly out of the ordinary-as hazing rituals go-to most readers. To Brad, they were acts of savagery. When he bought a pack of cigarettes and the cashier told him that he was going to die, he took her for a modern-day Cassandra with an important message from the dark beyond. Brad dropped out of rush. In what would be an embarrassingly bad finale if this memoir were fiction, a man from his pledge class died of a heart attack the day after he was informed that he hadn't been accepted into the fraternity. Brad blamed the Kappa Sigs. The best part of the book is Land's description of his relationship with his brother, which is reminiscent of Rich Wallace's treatment of the best friends in Wrestling Sturbridge (Knopf, 1997). However, that title runs circles around Goat.-Emily Lloyd, Rehoboth Beach Public Library, DE Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A mugging and a hazing, both ferociously vile, have their victim closing on the edge of sanity in his debut memoir of two abominable years. The way Land tells it, in clipped and painful sentences, he has always been a bit rickety, jumpy and shaky at even the best of times. These are not the best of times. The story starts when he gives a lift to a couple of strangers, who proceed, in an extended, excruciating assault, to beat him into jelly. Land describes the attack in writing that stutters, turns back on itself, repeats, and then surges forward in erratic strides. He calls his assailants "breath" and "smile," the only things he remembers about them. His physical recovery is slow, while his emotional recovery stalls; he's too shaken to follow through on a pre-beating plan to apply with his much-loved younger brother for a transfer from their hometown college to Clemson University, 70 miles away in South Carolina. Brett goes anyway, and when Brad finally makes it to Clemson eight months later, he senses a poison in the air, much of it radiating from his brother's fraternity. Compelled by forces he doesn't understand-obligation, tradition, security-he submits to the pledging process, which includes a ritualistic, sadistic hazing that closely reprises his experience with smile and breath, enhanced by toxic levels of alcohol. He finally walks away in a moment of grace so contrary to all that went before that the reader wants to shout as Brad asserts his free will and self-preservation: "I pass from them quietly, and then nothing's left. No one remembers my name." Another pledge is not so lucky and dies of a heart attack at age 18. How Land can stand to revisit these miseries with suchdelirious pungency would be a wonder, except that his sense of relief at having survived them is palpable. Fine, grim work.