Reviews > Published on July 6th, 2016

Bookshots: 'Arcade' by Drew Nellins Smith

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review



Who wrote it?

An essential read for young gay males searching for a literary companion in a world of books that isn’t always too embracing of the culture.

Drew Nellins Smith, an Austin writer whose work can be found on The Believer, Tin House, Paste Magazine, The Millions, The Daily Beast, and Electric Literature.

Plot in a box:

Sam, a motel clerk, finds refuge in an XXX peepshow after losing the man he thought loved him.

Invent a new title for this book:

He Didn’t Do Much Out There

Read this if you like(d):

Ham on Rye by Bukowski, What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

Meet the book’s lead(s):

Sam, a motel clerk in his late ‘20s who discovers a XXX peepshow on the outskirts of town. He’s a lonely, paranoid man who’s recently come out to his friends and family after losing the love of his life, a closeted cop. “Sam” is the name he gives potential sex-partners on internet forums or the at the peepshow to hide his real identity. The reader is never given his real name, and it doesn’t matter. Sam is all we need.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Emile Hirsch

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Sam lives in a small town somewhere in Central Texas, which is also where I live, so I guess there’s your answer. I also work at a hotel (Sam does the 3-11 shift, and I do 11-7). I haven’t been to an XXX peepshow yet, but there’s still plenty of time to work that into my schedule.

What was your favorite sentence?

Paragraph, actually:

Watching Close Encounters, I could imagine just how it felt looking at that mass and not knowing what to make of it. I knew how exhilarating and terrifying it could be to have things happen to your mind over which you had no control. Things you wanted and didn’t want at the same time.

The Verdict:

Drew Nellins Smith surprised me with his level of honesty in Arcade. Right off the bat his prose punches you in the face with a narrator so real and naked, you won’t be able to stop reading. I mean naked in more than one way, obviously. It’s a quick read, but impacts you more than some of the thickest tomes on your shelves.

Sam, a motel clerk with a broken heart, seeks a XXX peepshow on the outskirts of town to satisfy his curiosity and explore his sexuality. Inside this building he finds a gold mine of pornography and sex toys, but the real treasure is waiting in a separate hallway: a series of booths one can sit in to watch certain movies, sometimes with other strangers, if the door is intentionally left unlocked.

Arcade is a novel about sexuality, paranoia, loneliness, and finding who you really are. It’s a bildungsroman for those in their late ‘20s who haven’t quite found themselves yet. This is an essential read for young gay males searching for a literary companion in a world of books that isn’t always too embracing of the culture.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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