cover image Arbitrary Stupid Goal

Arbitrary Stupid Goal

Tamara Shopsin. MCD, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-10586-0

Shopsin (Mumbai New York Scranton) weaves a marvelous patchwork quilt of stories about a Manhattan that doesn't exist anymore%E2%80%94that of 1970s Greenwich Village, where her father opened Shopsin's General Store. Her narrative reads like prose poetry with the rhythm of a jazz song: much of each page is left blank, as if to emphasize the words she doesn't use; the arrangement of her spare, blunt paragraphs conjures vivid pictures throughout ("Channeling photos of old New York with clotheslines strung from every building, I ran one on a hypotenuse from my fire escape to my farthest window"). Shopsin's narrative is decidedly nonlinear: she bounces among stories of her father's best friend Willoughby; working in her parents' store-cum-restaurant; taking trips with her partner, Jason; and the diverse characters from the neighborhood. Shopsin, who now cooks at the restaurant, doesn't shy away from her city's lows, such as the high crime rate at the time, explaining that her father's store got broken into nearly every week. The seemingly disparate tales come together into an artistic ode to a way of life that people now living in New York City might never experience. (July)