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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  55 Ratings  ·  5 Reviews
Completed while he was dying, William Goyen's Arcadio is one of the most affecting and imaginative farewells to life ever written. Arcadio, whose voice is inimitably Goyenesque, is a creature from beyond the normal walks of life. Half man, half woman, raised in a whorehouse and for years the veteran exhibitionist in an itinerant circus sideshow, he has escaped from the sho ...more
Hardcover, 147 pages
Published November 13th 1983 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1983)
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Joe Milazzo
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Re-reading Goyen's final novel at this moment, more than 30 years after its publication, it seems to me that its great accomplishment is that it cares not at all if it offends. Goyen was never one to follow prevailing tastes, or to respect conventional notions of well-formed-ness. His language and rhythms and themes were all his own. He certainly does things in this novel that authors are not "supposed" to do. He writes in dialect, or a dialect -- Spanglish, one supposes; Southern, but only to t ...more
Sarah B.
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is both an imaginative novel and a southern gothic, so it was impossible for me not to love it. It was the first I have read by William Goyen, so I rely on Reginald Gibbons' biography Goyen: Autobiographical Essays, Notebooks, Evocations, Interviews to learn that the novel's themes of friendships and alienation, betrayal and reconciliation, wandering travellers, and of course living as a divided person, were all literary obsessions for Goyen and that they and carry across most of his works. ...more
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a strange and beautiful book. The surface story is about a hermaphrodite's search through side shows and brothels of rural east Texas for the mother who abandoned him (her?); intense spiritual and sexual longings permeate every page and the language is as rich and delicate and mysterious as the world it describes.
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The self is not sufficient; spirit and matter must be connected, Steven G. Kellman maintains in ‘“You Wan Hear”: Dialogic Imagination in Arcadio.’ Kellman writes that even though Goyen's novels “are . . . divided against themselves.., they stand as testimony to the hunger for wholeness” and later adds, Arcadio “is a recapitulation” of Goyen's major themes, a search “and a valediction.” I can’t think of any character in fiction who’s as divided as Arcadio: half-man, half-woman; half-saint, half-s ...more
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
I loved aspects of this, such as the characters and some of the language (although some of the repeated words and phrases got tedious for me), but something about it felt flat. The character didn't really change over the course of the book. He tells a little in flashback about how he changed from childhood to adulthood, but this doesn't contribute much tension to the story. I think it would've felt more alive if it had been told in real time rather than using the framing device of having the mai ...more
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Charles William Goyen was an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, editor, and teacher. Born in a small town in East Texas, these roots would influence his work for his entire life.

In World War II he served as an officer aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, where he began work on one of his most important and critically acclaimed books, The House of Breath. After the
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