Arbitrary Stupid Goal

Writer, graphic artist and restaurant cook Tamara Shopsin (Mumbai New York Scranton) grew up in her parents' Greenwich Village store and restaurant in the 1970s, when the area was dirty and sketchy and still felt like a village. Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a memoir of her loving erratic family of "foul-mouthed dirt balls," their restaurant, customers, neighbors and friends.

Shopsin was raised to believe "the nutrients of New York City are in the fringe people." Many of those she grew up around were scraping by as building supers and scam artists, musicians and home bakers. Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Brodsky, Charlie Parker, John Belushi and Calvin Trillin also have cameos. Shopsin and her four siblings roamed the city and had free rein of the restaurant, playing and working there, getting gifts and homework help from customers. The central figures are her volatile father and his good friend Willy, a scam artist, singer and obsessive Casanova who unchained the garbage can lids when it snowed so the Shopsin kids could use them as sleds. He also "liked running with dangerous people but had a theory he lived by: Don't sit next to people like that. Someone might come to shoot them, miss, and get you instead."

Shopsin's style is lucid and anecdotal, and the quantity of her stories and subjects nearly overwhelming. Thankfully, her frequent spaces and page breaks slow the reader enough to absorb her "ecstasy in the small things, the unexpected, and the everyday." --Sara Catterall

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