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Bob the Gambler
     

Bob the Gambler

by Frederick Barthelme
 

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A New York Times Notable Book.  In this darkly funny story, Ray and Jewel Kaiser try (and push) their luck at the Paradise casino. Peopled with dazed denizens, body-pierced children, a lusty grocery-store manager, and hourly employees in full revolt, this is a novel about wising up sooner rather than later--"a wise and funny tale" (New York Times Book Review)

Overview

A New York Times Notable Book.  In this darkly funny story, Ray and Jewel Kaiser try (and push) their luck at the Paradise casino. Peopled with dazed denizens, body-pierced children, a lusty grocery-store manager, and hourly employees in full revolt, this is a novel about wising up sooner rather than later--"a wise and funny tale" (New York Times Book Review) that is "masterfully observed" (John Barth).

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
...Engaging...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Clear-sighted, decent Ray Kaiser narrates his sudden capitulation to the allure of Biloxi's Paradise Casino in Barthelme's (Moon Deluxe; Painted Desert) deftly comic and gently melancholic 11th book. Abandoning his unremunerative architecture firm (running Ray Kaiser Design "is kind of like being a pro bongo player"), he becomes intoxicated by the rituals and the heady promises of big payoffs at the blackjack tables and the slot machines: "It was a joy to see the money move at a sedate pace back and forth the table, as if it had a life of its own, or was reacting to my will, or the dealer's, or even the magic in the cards." His thoroughgoing investment in the casino prompts him to reevaluate everythinglooking askance at the architecture profession even as he takes jobs "a little south on the food chain.'' With bracing good humor and moral nuance, the novel makes this familiar tale fresh again: Ray is as much a husband and father as he is (in his stepdaughter's sardonic parlance) "Bob the Gambler." His relationships with her, his parents and his wife, Jewel, are beguiling and carefully delineated. The unpredictable and morally ambiguous outcome of the tug-of-war between these relationships and the casino distinguish this rueful comedy, in which the narration is pitch-perfect and the plot is clever, surprising and vibrant with immediacy.
Library Journal
In the latest from the stylistically distinctive Barthelme, middle-aged Ray and Jewel Kaiser enter Paradisea casino in run-down Biloxi, Mississippi.
A.O. Scott
It is Barthelme's peculiar post-modern gift to be able to invert the easy ironies of contemporary life and reveal the truths beneath them. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Barthelme's latest exercise in existential pulse-taking (Painted Desert) focuses on the democratic vice of gambling, though it's less a study in addiction than a celebration of risk-taking and downward mobility. Raymond Kaiser, his wife Jewel, and her daughter from a previous marriage, RV, all quietly enjoy life in Biloxi, Miss., a "simple, easy, cheap" town on the Gulf Coast. With work as an architect drying up, Ray finds himself increasingly interested in the glitzy world of offshore gambling, especially at the Paradise, where Jewel wins over $1,000 on their first trip. In their daily life, "everything's dull," so it's no wonder that Jewel and Ray enjoy the visceral excitement of gambling. They soon graduate from slots to the blackjack table, and slowly find themselves down by over $4,000. Meanwhile, back home, RV seems headed into a downward spiral of teen rebellion—boy trouble, substance experimenting, and body piercings. It doesn't help that her parents are largely absent, spending their nights at Paradise. When Ray's father dies, it sends him further into a midlife crisis. He comes to see himself no longer as "an ordinary guy," but as a full-time gambler. The problem is—he's not very good at it. Spending 18 hours at a time in the casino does nothing but increase his debts. Maxing out a handful of credit cards, he finds himself over $35,000 in the hole, but still juiced by "the losses, the excitement, the hopes, the desperation, the high." Quitting architecture altogether, Ray and Jewel decide to downsize, selling their belongings and moving in with Ray's mother. In their new simplicity, this besieged family finally finds that happiness is not in middle-classstability, nor in the quick fix of gambling's artificial Paradise, but in their everyday Edenic lives. Barthelme strains for topical textures—cool repartee is interrupted only by channel surfing. But the real payoff is straight-up and timeless: a novel of surprising heart and soul.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547959382
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/15/1998
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
213
File size:
219 KB

What People are Saying About This

John Barth
Masterfully observed.

Meet the Author

Frederick Barthelme is the author of eleven books, including BOB THE GAMBLER and THE PAINTED DESERT. He directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi and edits the literary journal Mississippi Review. Mr. Barthelme lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

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