ZIMZUM by Gordon Lish


A Novel
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 More Lish: short, self-referential, scatological tropes of the ``experimental'' stripe, with a laugh or two along the way. If it's subtitled a novel, maybe it's a novel, but what seems to be here is a handful of stories, the first (``Paragraph'') being a three-page childhood memory (of going to the beach) told in a deliberately unsyntactic style, and the second (``Sentences'') being a 12-page, swingingly cadenced, Whitman-esque list of the narrator's (surprise: he's named Gordon Lish) memories of women he's had sex with; women he wants to have sex with again; and places where he has had sex. Which leads to the one longish piece, ``July the Fifteenth, 1988,'' where the narrator (same narrator; the book's a novel, then?) is caught in the three-way conflict of being expected at the same time (1) to be at work, (2) to visit his parents in an old people's home, where they're said to be misbehaving, and (3) to join his wife in buying a new vibrator. Much shtick ensues (the new vibrator, for example, is too big to be inserted you-know-where), with the hilarious (Beckettian, mostly) phrase, moment, or notion popping up occasionally, but also with a stylistic tic of broad repetitiousness (``You want me to recommend something to you? You want me to really recommend something to you? Because this is what I would recommend to you...'') rapidly becoming oppressively dreadful. For the rest: ``A Gay Turn on the Riesenrad'' is a tiny, tricky anti-story about sex; ``Motto'' is about Gordon Lish giving a talk while thinking about a mirror, a lover, and a hotel room; and ``Correction'' is about somebody telling Gordon Lish that, in his long story, he should have called a Queens bus the Q33, not the Q35. And so: short, self-referential, often scatological tropes of the experimental ilk, with a laugh or two along the way.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42685-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


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