Goat Brothers

When a colleague gives you a book recommendation, you take it.

Several months ago, my longtime friend and former co-worker, Dave Sittler, suggested I read Goat Brothers. I couldn’t turn the pages of the brick-thick hardback fast enough.

Goat brothers are pledges at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of California-Berkeley, and the book shepherds readers through the lives of five goats from the early 1960s to middle age.

The narrative breaks swiftly from the gate with boys being boys in the frat house. Hazed unmercifully, they binge-drink their way through one-nighters they can’t recall the following morning.

But the story evolves into the attachment five Pi KAs share as they leave Cal and venture into adulthood.

It is an exquisite snapshot of the times.

One of the most liberal universities in the country bears witness to the escalating Vietnam War, and the content of each character is revealed against the backdrop of protests and rising racial upheaval.

People of a certain age will recognize certain names and places.

Craig Morton, a former Cal and NFL quarterback, is best friends with goat brother slash shit-kicker Loren Hawley. Larry Colton, the book’s author, marries the daughter of Hedy Lamarr, a Hollywood bombshell of the 1940s.

On his way to becoming an astronaut, the smartest of the goats, Jim van Hoften, trains at Top Gun, the aviator school immortalized by the 1986 movie of the same name.

The routine blurring of the morality by the protagonists will shock some, but the unvarnished honesty contained in their stories is refreshing.

As for Colton, he is spot-on as storyteller. Breezy, intelligent, efficient.

Just listen to this:

The kids I was teaching weren’t Harvard bound. They threw punctuation at the page like a drunk at a dartboard; they couldn’t spell marijuana or amphetamine, but they knew where to get it.”

And this:

He bought her a beautiful watch one day, then wouldn’t give her the time of day the next. He talked about togetherness, yet walked down the street two steps ahead.”

Pick up a copy of Goat Brothers this summer. It won’t change your life but it will make you appreciate yours.









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