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Arcade or How to Write a Novel (Lish, Gordon) Hardcover – November 6, 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The transcendent quirkiness of Lish's style?repetitive, meandering, self-referential?brings to life a series of childhood summers in what may be his most accessible, funniest novel to date. Sore feet up on a pillow, Lish's aged narrator (named Gordon) goes on and on, winningly, about an arcade he visited at a sort of bungalow colony during his youth and about the extended family with whom he spent those long-ago vacations. Tiny memories spin, recurring, collecting resonance: a dirty ceiling grate seen through a hole in some strudel dough; the grapple bucket of an arcade game; an early sexual experience. Of the "cruel" lilies lining a pathway, Gordon recalls: "These tall scared-looking things, like they were going to faint and fall down and, you know, and kill people?like they were wounded or something or had a fever or something and wanted to kill people or something. It's too complicated. You probably don't have the brains for it." To punch up his comic, curmudgeonly harangues (indebted most obviously to Stein, Beckett's Malone and the cheesy "Americanola" dialect of Lish's late comrade-in-arms, Harold Brodkey), Lish (Dear Mr. Capote, etc.) goes so far as to interpolate blank pages of sheer fury, frustration or elegiac dumbfoundedness; elsewhere he bullies and cajoles the reader into experiencing directly the slippery power of memory and words. Even when he treats his narrator's nostalgia as an absurdity, an exercise in kitsch, the notorious editor and fiction guru brings surprising pathos to his histrionic remembrance of summers past.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Lish (Self-Imitation of Myself, LJ 10/15/97) is a well-known American author and editor, but this "novel," which seems to be more internal monolog and memoir, will add little that is positive to his reputation. The title refers to his memories of being the youngest cousin at family gatherings at Laurel in the Pines, when all the boy cousins left before Aunt Lily brought out her strudel because they wanted to operate the vending machines that allowed them to "dig" for treasures. The reader learns that Lish is small of stature but well endowed with both vocabulary and male genitalia. Aside from that, his achievement is making Woody Allen seem less neurotic and self-absorbed in comparison. In his attempt to be experimental, Lish leaves a section of pages blank; he never sheds the slightest clue as to how to write a novel. Not recommended.?Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., MD
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Lish, Gordon
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows; First Edition edition (November 6, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568581157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568581156
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,542,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This author subtitles his story, "Or How to Write a Novel," which is the key to understanding the wanderings and the repetitous manner of the telling. As in many of his previous novels ("Peru" is the best example), there is a moment in life that is fashioned as a diamond, hardened and central to the emotional life of the protagonist. In "Arcade," it is the trip to a vacation spot and a few moments that stick in the character, I Gordon's, memory. All else revolves around that, and always will.
Lish goes the next step beyond Sam Beckett. And like Beckett, Lish says our lives are a vaudeville routine at best. Gordon Lish deserves a better reading by critics and, especially, NYTimes reviewers.
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