This novel can only have been written by somebody who was born and raised in a small
Midwestern town like Baker, the setting of the story. Nobody else would have been able to descibe life
in such a town better than Tristan Egolf.
An omniscient narrator follows the different stages in the life of John Kaltenbrunner, the protagonist. The narrator mostly relies
on the memoirs of a certain Wilbur Altemeyer, one of the few people who was acquainted with John. John K. grows
up on a farm which he runs all by himself, even at the age of 9. He not only appears to be particular in this respect,
but also proves to be an outsider and loner at school where he avoids any contact with his peers and teachers and suffers
tremendously from unspeakable beatings and insults by his fellow students. In his later life he also remains the
one who fights against all the community of Baker.
John lays bare and ridicules the values and hypocracies of the God-fearing people in this Midwestern community,
where homosexuality is a crime, but incest and wife-beatings common features of everyday life.
Lord of the Barnyard is not only an account of an unlucky, hapless young man who alienates himself from the
people around him, is kicked out of school, imprisoned on a river freight barge, returns three years later from imprisonment
to his hometown and eventually becomes the ringleader of a strike of garbage collectors ('hill scrubs'). But it is also
a criticism of the mob mentality in rural American Midwest, of selfish practices of Methodists ('Methodist
crones'), of unjust lawyers and courts, of sensationalist media and of appalling working conditions
on poultry farms, abbatoirs and landfills.
Although John appeared to be completely uneducated when he was a young person, later Wilbur
Altemeyer (the chronologist) says that he was 'articulate, quick-witted, unapologetic and..uncompromisingly strong willed'.
Only keeping this in mind can it be understood that John was able to organise a strike that was to have a lasting impact
on the whole town of Baker and its neighboring counties. Therefore the strike itself covers the largest
part of the novel which is the last 150 pages of it.
The novel is mostly satirical and reveals the shortcomings of people as well as the whole political entity
of that cornbelt town of Baker.
At times the reading can become tedious as episodes are narrated in great detail and in an overblown language
which makes it even harder for a non-native speaker of the English language not to lose the thread. But it's worth