Arbitrary Stupid Goal
An endlessly entertaining illustrated memoir, time-traveling to the Greenwich Village of the author’s bohemian 1970s childhoodTamara Shopsin, the acclaimed New York Times and New Yorker illustrator, 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 Whole Foods and luxury condos. The center of Tamara’s universe is Shopsin’s, her family’s legendary corner store/restaurant/hangout, run by her inimitable dad, Kenny—a brilliant, 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. We follow Kenny as he pursues his destiny through early factory jobs, superintendent gigs, and crossword-puzzle mania. His temper flares as often as his humor, keeping Tamara, her mom, and her siblings constantly off-balance but giddy to be along for the always bracing ride. And the cast of supporting characters is unforgettable—oddballs and misfits, cops and con men, sax players and waitresses, longshoremen and poets, and crafty Willoughby “Willy” Jones, an old-time swindler and lady-killer from the South who improbably becomes Kenny’s foil and best friend. 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.At its core, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is about the secrets of living an unconventional life, which is becoming a forgotten art. It’s a place where serendipity trumps logic and overplanning can cause you to miss out on the fun of a midnight walk to the giant bubbling margarita glass perched precariously over the Mexican joint on Seventh Avenue. It’s about taking the day as it flows, treasuring experiences over things, and embracing the crazy but essential messiness of relationships.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 that will encourage readers to rediscover the vital spontaneity that we may have unwisely traded for the shelter of predictability.

Arbitrary Stupid Goal Details

TitleArbitrary Stupid Goal
Author
ReleaseJul 18th, 2017
PublisherMCD
ISBN-139780374105860
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography Memoir, Biography, New York, Humor, Graphic Novels Comics, Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, Adult, Food and Drink, Food

Arbitrary Stupid Goal Review

  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    this book is, with no exaggeration, one of the best things i have ever read.i read this book because i love kenny shopsin and this is written by his daughter, who also loves him. kenny shopsin is something of a legend: a take-no-shit new yorker with the pottiest of mouths and a crazy-ass restaurant where every item is imagination run wild and you’d better know the rules. i love his attitude and his creativity and that his cookbook is both hilarious and functional, and even though i have only man this book is, with no exaggeration, one of the best things i have ever read.i read this book because i love kenny shopsin and this is written by his daughter, who also loves him. kenny shopsin is something of a legend: a take-no-shit new yorker with the pottiest of mouths and a crazy-ass restaurant where every item is imagination run wild and you’d better know the rules. i love his attitude and his creativity and that his cookbook is both hilarious and functional, and even though i have only managed to get to his restaurant once, it was everything i had hoped it would be and i NEED to go back.so, i grabbed this book, hoping it would have some funny kenny shopsin anecdotes, the way i like to see lawrence durrell pop up in books by his brother gerald, who lovingly takes him down a peg. but this book, while it more than delivers what i wanted it to in terms of those anecdotes and the shopsin philosophy, proves that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and tamara shopsin is as magnificent a personality as her dad, and a phenomenal writer to boot. it is wonderfully unexpected in scope and free in form, and very very fast to read. on most of the pages, the text does not go all the way to the bottom, and there are drawings and photographs throughout, but this does not feel at all like padding to extend the length of the book - it suits her style of storytelling perfectly. these are recollections, snippets of family lore, stories about the characters she knew growing up in the village in the 80’s and beyond alongside tales of her travels as an adult with her photographer boyfriend as they travel to various locations on assignment, and the two storytelling tracks are full of touchpoints and connections that are sheer perfection. this book is too nice an object for me to want to fold over its pages whenever i came across something i wanted to call out in the review, so i just slipped little pieces of paper in each page, and by the end, the book was basically all bookmarks. so, to save me the time of typing out the entire book here, you all need to go out and read this to learn all about the role of chewing gum in marital disputes, gumball machine obsessions, why you should order soda at restaurants you love, crossword puzzles, instructions for making an origami penis, etc etc etc.it is spectacular, and i don’t think you already have to have a love of the shopsin name to appreciate it, but it definitely helps if you have an affection for the new york of bygone days.People looked out for each other even if it was a pain in the ass. This might have been because the Village was more dangerous and hardscrabble, because people lived there longer, were in more need, or just talked to each other more.it will make you envy “her” new york and her unconventional upbringing and whatever combination of things made her mind work the way it does and sustained her wide-eyed appreciation of the world, taking it all in without judgment or horror, even as she sees new york change again and again. she mentions how the city has changed in very matter-of-fact terms that aren’t bitter or given any emotional weight, but the contrast in her descriptions says it all - the neighborhood feel is gone. it’s never angry - it’s an observation with a shrug, which is the shopsin philosophy in a nutshell. it’s also a perfect circle - the story that serves as the introduction to the book is revealed to be something completely unexpected on the final page, which i will not ruin, but this is another hallmark of her style - the callback-as-reveal. she will mention someone in passing - as a bit player in the story of a more central individual, and then maybe 50 pages later, casually reveal that that bit player was charlie parker. and she does this frequently, tying her threads together so well - she uses earlier anecdotes about a neat freak tenant or a man’s low sperm count to illustrate the changing new york, and with one sentence invoking the incidents, gets her point across so perfectly, so poetically. it’s a skill that would make a novelist envious, but in a memoir, it’s even better - evidence of a remarkable mind observing and relaying her world in candid, accessible terms that make you yearn to befriend her. i mean, i want to hang out with her, and i’m scared of twins, so that should tell you something. every page is a gift. and the title? that refers to a little nugget of shopsin philosophy that spoke to my very soul. the arbitrary stupid goal, or ASG is:A goal that isn’t too important makes you live in the moment, and still gives you a driving force. This driving force is a way to get around the fact that we will all die and there is no real point to life.But with the ASG there is a point. It is not such an important point that you postpone joy to achieve it. It is just a decoy point that keeps you bobbing along, allowing you to find ecstasy in the small things, the unexpected, and the everyday.What happens when you reach the stupid goal? Then what? You just find a new ASG.all the monthly projects i do on here, all the little distractions i pursue that provide me with a silly little sense of accomplishment in a life where i don’t have the money or career or success that i should, they are what keep me invested and engaged while i flounder and hope that something will come along and give me a greater sense of purpose. and now i have a name for it.i love this book so damn much. i would have maybe liked a little more food-based tales, but i can always read the cookbook for that (Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin), or watch the shopsin documentary again. i want her to never stop writing.this book - read it read it read it. ***********************************PLEASE ADOPT ME, SHOPSINS!review to come, but MAN, do i love this book
    more
  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    I bought this book after reading an excerpt online somewhere and absolutely loved it. It is an intimate, strange, meandering portrait of the New York City that keeps New Yorkers living in New York. It's also a portrait of a family and their store/restaurant. It's a series of loosely connected character studies. It is the history of a neighborhood and a street. It is a daughter's love for her father, for the city she grew up in, for the strange ways everything is connected. Absolutely worth your I bought this book after reading an excerpt online somewhere and absolutely loved it. It is an intimate, strange, meandering portrait of the New York City that keeps New Yorkers living in New York. It's also a portrait of a family and their store/restaurant. It's a series of loosely connected character studies. It is the history of a neighborhood and a street. It is a daughter's love for her father, for the city she grew up in, for the strange ways everything is connected. Absolutely worth your time.
    more
  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    A goddamn delight.
  • Trin
    January 1, 1970
    Despite the title/cover, this is in no way an angry or cynical book. It's a love song to New York and to the author's family and to their family business. And it's the type of memoir that you want to live in: that time, that place, those people.
  • Elena
    January 1, 1970
    I just love this book so much. It is such a perfect mix of stream of conscious writing, NYC history, memoir, and celebrity cameo. Plus, she is hilarious!The further I read, the more I felt like Tamara is my friend. The realization that she is not my friend, and that I don't even know her as an acquaintance, makes me sad. I want more of her writing, and I want her to be my friend. I've already recommended this to one reader and will continue to recommend it to many, many more.
    more
  • Tosh
    January 1, 1970
    A hard book to put down. Each page is a bite size narrative that is so well written and often profound, that you just want to take another page in, and then after that, another, and so forth. Tamara Shopsin, besides being a wonderful prose artist, is also an illustrator and designer. Some of the text is only a few paragraphs long on a page, to full page - but this is an epic history of her family, their friends, and the main star of the book, New York City, specifically Greenwich Village. Every A hard book to put down. Each page is a bite size narrative that is so well written and often profound, that you just want to take another page in, and then after that, another, and so forth. Tamara Shopsin, besides being a wonderful prose artist, is also an illustrator and designer. Some of the text is only a few paragraphs long on a page, to full page - but this is an epic history of her family, their friends, and the main star of the book, New York City, specifically Greenwich Village. Every page is a reflection of the classic New York landscape. One that I often imagined in fiction, films, and music. Reading this memoir, I have The Lovin' Spoonful as a soundtrack in my brain. No mention of the band within its pages, but that is what I bring to the text as a reader. The Shopsin family are well-known in the Village and beyond, due that they had a food market, which turned into a legendary diner. I've been there twice, and the food was incredible, but beyond that one goes there for the spectacle; the theater that comes with the restaurant. I can't think of another diner that is so enjoyable, as well as entertaining. The chances of being insulted by the owner (the author's father) are in the 70% bracket. Of course, it's worth taking a chance, because it's an amazing show. And again the food is great.Tamara Shopsin's book captures the flavor of her family which in turn means classic New York City. Every page has a wisdom or philosophy either made by Tamara, or by the mom Eve, or dad Kenny. This is the book to have when one is feeling down or depressed. The life that comes off these pages is rich, brilliant, and hysterical. The sad thing is Manhattan has changed into a huge shopping mall mentality. Shopsin captures the moments why one would want to visit NYC in the first place, as well as a focused snapshot of life being lived at its intense pleasure.
    more
  • Spencer Madsen
    January 1, 1970
    i loved reading this book. the format is really interesting, basically a series of vignettes/stories told by someone who heard them from someone else. felt pretty transported into the intimacy of the author's life. the people. the time period. the periphery.
    more
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    5+A magnificent kind of memoir - elliptic, funny, poignant, with a kind of recursive logic that makes more sense the further along you read. It's the story of a restaurant, of an ideology, of a man who was so many wonderful things and plenty of flawed ones too, of a city and a time and a way of life that maybe doesn't exist anymore but it's the thing that keeps the weirdos and the passionate and the hungry coming to New York year after year. If you live in NYC, read this. If you've always wanted 5+A magnificent kind of memoir - elliptic, funny, poignant, with a kind of recursive logic that makes more sense the further along you read. It's the story of a restaurant, of an ideology, of a man who was so many wonderful things and plenty of flawed ones too, of a city and a time and a way of life that maybe doesn't exist anymore but it's the thing that keeps the weirdos and the passionate and the hungry coming to New York year after year. If you live in NYC, read this. If you've always wanted to live in NYC, read this. If you once lived in NYC, read this. If you can't imagine what would possess someone to live in NYC, read this.
    more
  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVED it. And now miss NYC to a painful degree.
  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't like this very much, the writing was good and some parts were OK, but it was just too disjointed, a bunch of little stories about neighbors and customers it was hard to identify with any of them. I finished it because it was so short but if it was any longer I'd have dropped it.
    more
  • Lynne Adams
    January 1, 1970
    If I could give this book a 3.5 rating, I would. I lived in NYC during the early 80s when things were still gritty although not as much as they had been 10 years earlier. I loved parts of the book--they rang true to me even though I have never been to The Store. And I really loved the acknowledgments section where the author takes the sterility of NYC theses days head on. She's absolutely right. I just thought that parts of the book fell a bit flat, particularly compared to the parts that were g If I could give this book a 3.5 rating, I would. I lived in NYC during the early 80s when things were still gritty although not as much as they had been 10 years earlier. I loved parts of the book--they rang true to me even though I have never been to The Store. And I really loved the acknowledgments section where the author takes the sterility of NYC theses days head on. She's absolutely right. I just thought that parts of the book fell a bit flat, particularly compared to the parts that were genius.
    more
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I LIKED this book - it is fun, quirky and fascinating insight for those of us (especially GenX-ers) who love New York but don't know New York. That being said, I do not understand the 4 and 5 star ratings.
  • St Fu
    January 1, 1970
    Kenny told me HE only gave it 4 stars. But, he says, Amazon scotched the review. Yes, he used the word "scotched." He also said of the book, "She got all of the symptoms but not the substance." Don't tell him I posted this. He hates publicity of any kind.I don't know how this book would read to someone not already familiar with the principals. I was reminded of things I had long forgotten. I'm going to read her previous book when I get the chance. That's an arbitrary, perhaps stupid goal of mine Kenny told me HE only gave it 4 stars. But, he says, Amazon scotched the review. Yes, he used the word "scotched." He also said of the book, "She got all of the symptoms but not the substance." Don't tell him I posted this. He hates publicity of any kind.I don't know how this book would read to someone not already familiar with the principals. I was reminded of things I had long forgotten. I'm going to read her previous book when I get the chance. That's an arbitrary, perhaps stupid goal of mine. The concept of pursuing for the sake of the joy of pursuing was first enunciated by the Unabomber in his manifesto. He was afraid that technology would make goals too easy to reach. He didn't understand that goals could be arbitrary or stupid.Last time I was at Shopsins, I ordered a Jewboy sandwich. Not remembering there was a rule against it, my wife asked what was in it. The rule must have expired because Kenny told her. I'm not going to tell you, though. I try and avoid spoilers in my reviews. It was delicious!
    more
  • Ynna
    January 1, 1970
    I was already won over when I read the descriptions of this book-- 1970's bohemian family in Greenwich Village. I am in love with New York and will read books about the city in an attempt to learn more about it and be more of a New Yorker without actually living there. Arbitrary Stupid Goal is Tamara Shopsin's memoir about growing up in Greenwich Village with a mother and father who ran a restaurant featuring hundreds of menu items, colorful regulars, and unwritten rules which could get you kick I was already won over when I read the descriptions of this book-- 1970's bohemian family in Greenwich Village. I am in love with New York and will read books about the city in an attempt to learn more about it and be more of a New Yorker without actually living there. Arbitrary Stupid Goal is Tamara Shopsin's memoir about growing up in Greenwich Village with a mother and father who ran a restaurant featuring hundreds of menu items, colorful regulars, and unwritten rules which could get you kicked out without warning. It is funny, heartwarming and includes cartoons, sketches and scans of pieces of Tamara's childhood as well as pieces of New York City at the time. This book is a quick, delightful read about one of the greatest cities in the world.
    more
  • Eleanore
    January 1, 1970
    It is sweet, rough, real, and honest, as all good memoir should be, and yet... Didn't love it nearly as much as many others clearly have. It was fine. It probably doesn't help that I have no personal connection to, nor love for, New York, which probably would've endeared it more to me. That, and there being no discernible reason whatsoever for it to be formatted in such a disjointed, random way (other than hugely padding the page count; format it like any other book and it would likely be 100 pa It is sweet, rough, real, and honest, as all good memoir should be, and yet... Didn't love it nearly as much as many others clearly have. It was fine. It probably doesn't help that I have no personal connection to, nor love for, New York, which probably would've endeared it more to me. That, and there being no discernible reason whatsoever for it to be formatted in such a disjointed, random way (other than hugely padding the page count; format it like any other book and it would likely be 100 pages or less).
    more
  • Lulu
    January 1, 1970
    I'd rather give this 3.5 stars but will lean on the generous side. I <3 NYC and it's a unique memoir but it can be hard to follow. It's written in a series of somewhat disjointed anecdotes and tales. They're amusing and interesting for the most part but it can be hard to recall some characters and sometimes introduces a character and you wonder if you were supposed to know them from a previous anecdote. I liked it but was ready for it to be done.
    more
  • Steve Bookman
    January 1, 1970
    A very special opportunity to inhabit a memorable time and place in New York City history. Centered around the incredible subculture of Shopsin's (first a grocery then a restaurant) the book joyously excavates an earlier time free of the oppressive carnival of unselfconsciously flaunted wealth above all other values.
    more
  • Paula Pergament
    January 1, 1970
    This story of a hidden gem in New York is more than a tale about life in a restaurant. It's the story of how a neighborhood changed and its residents. It's funny and sometimes sad how this side of a New York that no longer exists continues to draw crowds for its food with a slice of colorful verbal commentary.
    more
  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    I hope I never run into Tamara Shopsin. I will be one of those really annoying people who ask her really annoying questions about the wonderful book she wrote. It's probably going to get really weird when I ask if she'll cook something for me. This won't be pretty.
    more
  • Anthony Faber
    January 1, 1970
    This Greenwich Village memoir is by a Shopsin daughter, and talks about her family (who seem to be either loved or hated), Greenwich Village, and various characters therein. I enjoyed it. If you want more, there's a documentary "I Like Killing Flies" about the family & restaurant.
    more
  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    Really entertaining but too disjointed for my taste. Great series of vignettes, but there is no through line on any of it --Wally, arbitrary stupid goals, her relationships. I'm sure for many this will be a delightful read. Just didn't connect with me.
    more
  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent Highly recommended. This book made me laugh, I learned a lot and it made me think about life and the city I call home.
  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely love a well-told story. This was not that.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Thank god for this book. It was perfect.
  • Lori Bain
    January 1, 1970
    Kind of an odd little book, but a neat read as a native New Yorker.
  • Nevin Patton
    January 1, 1970
    More. Please.
  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    Fun read. Glad to know the Shopsins are on the same planet. Good way to look at life...set arbitrary stupid goals and you might find happiness.
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Delightful, breezy memoir of growing up in New York.
  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    the always entertaining genre of "new york was better when everyone was grotty and weird" + plot/narrative as relayed (idiosyncratically) by a visual thinker = an enjoyable reading experience
  • Jen Johnston
    January 1, 1970
    Wasn't into the writing layout
Write a review