GOATMAN by Thomas Thwaites


How I Took a Holiday from Being Human
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What would it be like to be a goat?

Thwaites (The Toaster Project, 2011) explains that his goal was to achieve a “profound shift in perspective” so that he might “look at a chair and [not] automatically associate it with sitting…[and ultimately be able to] look at a(nother) goat and think of it as another person like me.” A 30-something freelance designer still living with his father, the author was at loose ends, still basking in the success of his earlier project building a toaster from scratch. Rather than worrying about his future, he tells us, he decided to explore taking “a holiday from being human” by seeing if he could be accepted by a herd of goats. To achieve this, he designed a goatlike exoskeleton that included prosthetic limbs that prevented him from using his hands. The necessity of checking out his environment without using his hands was one of the more interesting aspects of his major change of perspective. He also committed himself to eating grass, albeit cooked in a pressure cooker over a campfire. Thwaites visited a goat sanctuary in the U.K., where he was able to closely observe their behavior. After practicing on his prosthetic limbs, he felt ready for the last leg of his journey. Walking with his prosthetic limbs was, of course, difficult, but the author notes that adopting a four-legged gait was not an insurmountable challenge. At last, he took the final step; hosted by a Swiss farmer, he joined his herd of goats. They seemed to accept his presence as they grazed on a steep alpine trail, although at one point, they became agitated when he inadvertently challenged their hierarchy. Dozens of photos document his journey from man to goat.

A quirkily entertaining exploration of what it means to be human and what it might be like to be a goat.

Pub Date: May 17th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61689-405-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Princeton Architectual Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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