Love and Other Games of Chance: A Novelty

Love and Other Games of Chance: A Novelty

by Lee Siegel
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The flamboyant hero of this zany, wildly comic novel is Isaac Schlossberg-circus performer, entertainer, world traveler. The son of Jewish immigrants who arrived in America at the turn of the last century, Isaac spends his formative years in California, working sideshows, Wild West jamborees, and early films, before going on to India, England, Paris, Hollywood, and…  See more details below

Overview

The flamboyant hero of this zany, wildly comic novel is Isaac Schlossberg-circus performer, entertainer, world traveler. The son of Jewish immigrants who arrived in America at the turn of the last century, Isaac spends his formative years in California, working sideshows, Wild West jamborees, and early films, before going on to India, England, Paris, Hollywood, and perhaps even to the top of Mt. Everest. Isaac organizes the tall tales of his past into one hundred chapters or squares-like those on the children's game of Snakes and Ladders. As he travels, he moves through erotic love affairs with, among others, a Jewish tightrope walker, the daughter of a Hindu snake charmer, and a mystical British aviatrix. Raucous and inventive, this three-ring circus of a novel is at once silly and grand, absurd yet full of meaning.

Editorial Reviews

Tom LeClair
Siegel's first novel, Love in a Dead Language, was a literary original, an erotic comedy posing as a translation of and commentary on the Kama Sutra. Siegel calls his new fiction a "novelty, " but it is a compendium of old novelty acts, hoary routines from low vaudeville to Grand Guignol, Wild West shows to circuses. Born around 1900 to sideshow performers, Isaac Schlossberg plays a "snake-boy" in the United States and then spends the years between world wars in India, England, France and Russia, where he familiarizes himself with the cultures and engages in the game of love with a variety of women. The book must have a hundred characters, most with eccentric names and little purchase on the reader's affections. The plot involves a succession of supposedly comic, but actually tedious, escapades. Siegel knows the secrets of magic acts and loves the kitsch of popular entertainments, but this book is more like a weeklong pitch for a performance than the performance itself.
Publishers Weekly
This second novel by Siegel (Love in a Dead Language) lives up to its subtitle: it's organized as a game of Snakes and Ladders, with each chapter representing a square on the game board; the reader can choose between a traditional reading, from start to finish, and a playful one, letting the roll of the dice decide. The story follows Isaac Schlossberg, a swindler, circus performer and entertainer. As Schlossberg travels around the world (and across the board), his stunts-from childhood appearances in sideshow acts with his Jewish immigrant parents at the turn of the century to his attempts to beat Sir Edmund Hillary to the top of Mount Everest-are woven together into one exceptionally tall tale. Depending on one's point of view, this is either the book's failing or its forte: the reader hardly has time to take in Schlossberg's romance with a Hindu snake charmer, for example, before he flies off to a different corner of the earth, a different occupation and a different woman. At the beginning and end of the novel are somewhat more grounded first-person accounts by a writer called Lee Siegel, Schlossberg's estranged son, who explains that "a person's lies always reveal some truth about them." The whole enterprise is finally redeemed by Siegel's amusing deadpan style: "The end of the war was... a blow to my father.... without a government paycheck... my father had to take agricultural work, using [his plane] to spray citrus groves with a poison that, developed for use on German infantrymen, proved lethal to American fruit flies." (Feb. 10) Forecast: Love in a Dead Language was also an offbeat book that received favorable reviews but didn't establish Siegel's name. He may attract a cult following with this second wildly comic novel. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Siegel's erotic farce, Love in a Dead Language, established him as a comic writer with considerable flair. Here, he continues in that vein with a Jewish circus performer extraordinaire, infusing the narrative with the flavor of Yiddish theatricality and immigrant resourcefulness. The son of immigrants, Isaac Schlossberg spends his formative years performing with his parents in traveling sideshows, Wild West jamborees, vaudeville, and early films. In the 1920s, he is bitten by the carnival bug, travels to Calcutta, and forms a wild group of his own, Professor Solomon Serpentarius' Oriental Oddities and Indian Incredibilities, to tour England. Further exploits take him to Paris and then Hollywood, where he stars as Ponce de Leon in a movie produced by Jewish mobsters. The cast of characters includes sharpshooters, fortune-tellers, mentalists, magicians, mesmerists, and midgets, and Isaac has love affairs with a Jewish tight-rope walker, the daughter of a Hindu snake charmer, and a Communist acrobat-to name a few. Low comedy, physical buffoonery, and rough wit abound. Though a bit over-the-top for this reviewer, this work will perfectly suit those with a taste for the literary fable. For larger collections.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Raucous adventure tale of a man's journey from the Dead Sea to the top of Mt. Everest, in a hundred vignettes touring early 20th-century pop culture.

Author Siegel's mother reveals in a prologue that Siegel's recently deceased father wasn't really his father. His real father was Isaac Schlossberg, a showman and adventurer who left behind a box of papers and a mysterious game that looks a lot like Chutes & Ladders but is actually Snakes & Ladders, a chessboard-like device of Eastern origin. Stories are written on each of the squares of his version of the game, and such is the book: a hundred chapters detailing Schlossberg's madcap adventures. Says second-novelist Siegel (Love in a Dead Language, 1999), "To play the game, it seems to me, is to become acquainted with the author in the same way we get to know a person in real life." The "squares," or chapters, go from the Wild West to the Mystic East, and through the Prime Meridian to Novel Antipodes, eventually heading toward the enlightenment of Everest, where it may turn out that Schlossberg made it to the top before Hillary. The story, fragmented and random (and entirely without paragraph breaks), offers up history in an old-fashioned pop culture-biblical figures in the context of vaudeville acts, for example. There are cameos from famous figures ("Buffalo Bill and Geronimo were shooting it out for the heart of Matanka Hickok at the Old London Theater," or ' "I act according to the intent of the Almighty Creator,' " Germany's chancellor, Adolf Hitler, said in a speech at an anti-Jewish rally in Munich"). It's never clear whether we're supposed to read the book or play it, and one wishes the "game" came with a clearer set ofinstructions. But the cast is lively and the history complete. Even if we don't buy into Schlossberg's adventure entirely, Siegel is there to tell us that "A person's lies always reveal some truth about them."

Vast and zany.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142003916
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
02/24/2004
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.14(h) x 0.95(d)

Meet the Author

Lee Siegel is professor of Indian religions at the University of Hawaii. The author of the novel Love in a Dead Language and several works of nonfiction, he is also a former member of both the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >