Picks and Pans Review: Arcadio

updated 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by William Goyen

Goyen came out of East Texas almost 40 years ago with a novel, The House of Breath, that established him as a literary find. His was a book much like Truman Capote's first effort Other Voices, Other Rooms: Both were autobiographical Gothics. Although Goyen continued to write books and plays, he never matched his first success and died last August. (He was the husband of actress Doris Roberts, who won a 1983 Emmy for her appearance on St. Elsewhere.) This novel is a curious thing to have left behind. Arcadio is a half-man, half-woman who appears as a vision to a young man in Texas. Most of the novel is Arcadio's telling of the story of his/ her life—a life spent in search of a mother, a half brother, and a cruel, drunken lout of a father. Arcadio grows up in a whorehouse and then becomes a freak in a sideshow, refusing to expose him/ herself to the paying customers. If there is a lot of inventiveness in this book, there are also a lot of clichés, and the prose style that Goyen has created at times sounds like a parody of extravagant writing: "And if you are sick of flesh and body and feeling and wanting and cannot put out of your mind pictures of the flesh, if you are haunted and in that bondage then you can remember me, you can recall my story and cry for the knocking hombre de reconciliación, or put it all aside as something that does not have nothing to do with you and perdóname, Señor, Señora, Señorita, compadre, Corazón. You wan hear?" There is a lot of Spanish and purposely poor vernacular. It is all extremely self-conscious, yet not without a peculiar attraction. (Potter, $12.95)

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