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Arbitrary Stupid Goal
Cover of Arbitrary Stupid Goal
Arbitrary Stupid Goal

"Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a completely riveting world—when I looked up from its pages regular life seemed boring and safe and modern like one big iPhone. This book captures not just a lost New York but a whole lost way of life." —Miranda July

In Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin takes the reader on a pointillist time-travel trip to the Greenwich Village of her bohemian 1970s childhood, a funky, tight-knit small town in the big city, long before Sex and the City tours and luxury condos. The center of Tamara's universe is Shopsin's, her family's legendary greasy spoon, aka "The Store," run by her inimitable dad, Kenny—a loquacious, contrary, huge-hearted man who, aside from dishing up New York's best egg salad on rye, is Village sheriff, philosopher, and fixer all at once. All comers find a place at Shopsin's table and feast on Kenny's tall tales and trenchant advice along with the incomparable chili con carne.

Filled with clever illustrations and witty, nostalgic photographs and graphics, and told in a sly, elliptical narrative that is both hilarious and endearing, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is an offbeat memory-book mosaic about the secrets of living an unconventional life, which is becoming a forgotten art.

"Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a completely riveting world—when I looked up from its pages regular life seemed boring and safe and modern like one big iPhone. This book captures not just a lost New York but a whole lost way of life." —Miranda July

In Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin takes the reader on a pointillist time-travel trip to the Greenwich Village of her bohemian 1970s childhood, a funky, tight-knit small town in the big city, long before Sex and the City tours and luxury condos. The center of Tamara's universe is Shopsin's, her family's legendary greasy spoon, aka "The Store," run by her inimitable dad, Kenny—a loquacious, contrary, huge-hearted man who, aside from dishing up New York's best egg salad on rye, is Village sheriff, philosopher, and fixer all at once. All comers find a place at Shopsin's table and feast on Kenny's tall tales and trenchant advice along with the incomparable chili con carne.

Filled with clever illustrations and witty, nostalgic photographs and graphics, and told in a sly, elliptical narrative that is both hilarious and endearing, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is an offbeat memory-book mosaic about the secrets of living an unconventional life, which is becoming a forgotten art.

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About the Author-
  • Tamara Shopsin is a well-known cook at the distinctly New York City eatery Shopsin's, a New York Times and New Yorker illustrator, and the author of 5 Year Diary and What Is This?, as well as the coauthor of This Equals That and Mumbai New York Scranton. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 5, 2017
    Shopsin (Mumbai New York Scranton) weaves a marvelous patchwork quilt of stories about a Manhattan that doesn't exist anymore—that 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.

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2017
    Candid recollections of growing up in Greenwich Village in the 1980s.Graphic designer, illustrator, and memoirist Shopsin (Mumbai New York Scranton, 2013, etc.) continues her life story in a chronicle constructed of terse paragraphs, whimsical graphics, and family photographs. The author, her twin sister, and three brothers ranged freely in the neighborhood around Morton Street, where her parents--her irascible father, Kenny, a cook, and gentle mother, Eve--owned The Store, a grocery, later turned into a restaurant that attracted celebrities such as John Belushi, Calvin Trillin (he paid in cookbooks), poet Joseph Brodsky, John F. Kennedy Jr., handsome in Lycra bike shorts, and a host of models, rock stars, and athletes. Good customers got a set of keys so they could go to the store any time it was closed, write down what they took, and pay later. Born in 1979, the year the schoolboy Etan Patz disappeared, Shopsin was hardly overprotected. "The city may have been more dangerous," she writes, "but it was a less hostile place. Everyone knew each other." Still, she witnessed blacks beaten up by a gang of boys, drug addicts sleeping in doorways, and homeless people living in playgrounds. "It is easy to cite the bad in the filthy chaos of New York before luxury condos," she writes. "It is harder to express the spirit, life, and community that the chaos and inefficiency bred." The author succeeds admirably in expressing that spirit, largely through sharp, loving portraits of two brash, irreverent, opinionated men: her father, who summarily banned certain customers from his restaurant, and his best friend Willy, superintendent of an apartment building, occasional nightclub singer, flagrant womanizer, and scam artist. Shopsin adored them both. It was her father who came up with the phrase "Arbitrary Stupid Goal" to describe his "guiding belief": "A goal that isn't too important makes you live in the moment, and still gives you a driving force" that allows you "to find ecstasy in the small things, the unexpected, and the everyday." A warm evocation of a quirky life and exuberant times.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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