Facade for a Penny Arcade

James Reiss


ISBN 978-1-941550-88-5      250 pages      $16.00

Hooray for Facade for a Penny Arcade! James Reiss’s big, audacious, buoyantly literate novel is an endless delight to read and ponder. Cheers all around.


—Adrienne Miller, author of The Coast of Akron


Arnie Gross is a real-life architect and dream-architect of a perfect edifice: his own story, the story of “A.R. Gross, war baby, man of his generation, designer of lofts and ladies’ rooms, husband of someone asleep in the middle of life. . .” Arnie’s story is both a blueprint and a finished work of anarchical mastery—wild and provocative—yet set down with authority on a solid foundation.


—Carol Muske-Dukes, author of Twin Cities


James Reiss, one of our finest and most fearless poets, weighs in with a glorious new novel, Facade for a Penny Arcade. Architect Arnie Gross is among the most vivid and memorable characters to grace a novel in years. “Onward Judeo-Christian soldiers!” Arnie shouts in one hilarious moment before sex. You’ll laugh your way through this book, it’s true, but more importantly, as in only the best fiction, you’ll feel as though you’ve a lived a life, a genuine life, warts and everything else. I for one am grateful for the window inside.


—Peter Orner, author of Am I Alone Here


Praise for James Reiss


“In Reiss. . .memories are like pictures cut out of magazines, inertia and insomnia are the two forms of life. Pursued by the same phantoms, which reappear on the telephone, in sequential rooms, in snapshots, in slides, Reiss writes them down in an accomplished plain style.”

      —The New York Times Book Review


“All in all, this is an impressive. . .book, solid rather than flashy; [it does] not make grand pronouncements [but has]. . .what Howard Nemerov called ‘great primary human drama.’”

      —The New Republic


“Reiss writes with urgency and zing. He travels through time and distance, using brand names and the heroes of pop culture as touchstones of American life: Uneeda Biscuits, Groucho Marx, Jay Silverheels, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Life Savers. . . .There isn’t a dull page in the book.”

      —Library Journal


“Filled with the unpredictable details that fill city life, Reiss. . .carries the reader along, like fellow passengers in the express subway car, traveling through familiar (sometimes not so friendly) locales while following the poet’s train of thought. . . .Whatever slice of life he chooses, Reiss’s typical American experiences come through: fresh, affectionately direct, touchingly true.”



“Joining in the spicy and sensual. . .Reiss spans Mexico, Israel, ancient Rome and Central Park, traveling through real and imagined time. The common thread is characters with balls and spirit, raging against natural and emotional disaster.”

      —St. Petersburg Times


“Reiss has always been a committed story-teller (from his first book, The Breathers) and as he admits, without fanfare here: ‘I write to slow things down.’ The conceit of lowered velocity, of slow going, works well here . . . . Reiss has acquired, over years, a gleaming lens—one of highly-perfected observation and carefully-adjusted speed. We recall Issa: ‘Climb Mt. Fuji: but slowly, slowly.’”

      —The Huffington Post



James Reiss grew up in upper Manhattan and northern New Jersey. For many years he was an English professor at Miami University in Ohio, as well as Founding Editor of Miami University Press. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including The Breathers, Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems, and The Novel, as well as the author of the novel When Yellow Leaves and the editor of Self-Interviews: James Dickey, His work has appeared in such places as The Atlantic, Esquire, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Slate. He lived near Chicago, where he passed away at the end of 2016.