Bob the Gambler

Frederick Barthelme, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (213p) ISBN 978-0-395-80977-8
Clear-sighted, decent Ray Kaiser narrates his sudden capitulation to the allure of Biloxi's Paradise Casino in Barthelme's (Moon Deluxe; Painted Desert) deftly comic and gently melancholic 11th book. Abandoning his unremunerative architecture firm (running Ray Kaiser Design ""is kind of like being a pro bongo player""), he becomes intoxicated by the rituals and the heady promises of big payoffs at the blackjack tables and the slot machines: ""It was a joy to see the money move at a sedate pace back and forth the table, as if it had a life of its own, or was reacting to my will, or the dealer's, or even the magic in the cards."" His thoroughgoing investment in the casino prompts him to reevaluate everything--looking askance at the architecture profession even as he takes jobs ""a little south on the food chain.'' With bracing good humor and moral nuance, the novel makes this familiar tale fresh again: Ray is as much a husband and father as he is (in his stepdaughter's sardonic parlance) ""Bob the Gambler."" His relationships with her, his parents and his wife, Jewel, are beguiling and carefully delineated. The unpredictable and morally ambiguous outcome of the tug-of-war between these relationships and the casino distinguish this rueful comedy, in which the narration is pitch-perfect and the plot is clever, surprising and vibrant with immediacy. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-1295-1
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-395-92474-7
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