Foreword Reviews

Arcade of Memory

Clarion Rating: 5 out of 5

Arcade of Memory is an in-depth literary collection in which beautiful places and thoughtful personalities, past and present, are engaged.

Howard Giskin’s bountiful collection Arcade of Memory gathers essays, poems, and short stories around timeless themes.

Beginning with brief entries, the book develops into a more and more cogent whole as it progresses. The first set of microessays introduce the book’s major themes—transcendence and time—through personal memories. Then groups of five-stanza poems build on those themes, while eight short stories round out the collection, featuring characters who face out-of-body and paranormal encounters. The last, longest story is a fleeting quest through time and a microcosm of the whole work.

Functioning like memoir, the collection’s personal thoughts and subconscious meanderings engage literature, nature, and historical figures. Quotes from far-flung sources are frequent; references to art, opera, music, and philosophy create the sense that the book has initiated a discussion throughout time. Close-quarter moments—listening to rain on a tent, wine and camaraderie shared at a small café, and settings like campfires, caves, and wooded paths—point to a conversation with a partner who, while not visible, is present nonetheless.

Only the essays are personally narrated. The poems address a generic “you” and are at once intimate and indefinite. They are impressions captured in phrases and demand careful attention. Their brevity and clustering invite pausing in wonder as they revel in beauty and everyday pleasures:

The border crossing came and went
In dappled sleep, water and forest
Painting a canvas of a hundred shades
Of blue and brown. Tall pines’
Sawtooth crests greet sweet morning.

A choir of voices emerges in the short stories, weaving in threads from bygone eras and paintings that come to life. Descriptions of characters’ desires, regrets, and delights emphasize emotion over objectivity. The result is dreamy work that imparts a sense that there is more to life than meets the eye.

Concluding with “Sirmio,” a tale about a couple exploring a quaint Italian town in which a centuries-old villa speaks a tale of its retired general owner and large library, the book suggests awareness of the history all around its moments. Crystalline prose renders the last story as an easy-to-follow but complex web. Anecdotes and imagination make the entries’ history lessons entertaining and informative, while annotations, sometimes indicating how sources were found, further a sense of the book’s devotion to ongoing relationships with literature and books.

Arcade of Memory is an in-depth literary collection in which beautiful places and thoughtful personalities, past and present, are engaged.

Reviewed by Mari Carlson

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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