I’ve spent the afternoon trying my damnedest to figure out what the title of this book means in relation to the stories contained within. I refuse to believe that it’s to be taken literally (which I think would mean a fun place to miscarry fetuses). Here’s what I came up with:
abortion: the willful termination of a pregnancy (which I am tying directly into the metaphorical concept of quickening, and not limiting to biological functions)
arcade: a passageway; an establishment established for the purpose of playing games for a fee
More than any bizarro I’ve ever read, these stories fit neatly into the category of absurdism. You’ve got three different tales of a protagonist attempting to find meaning in a meaningless world only to be beaten to a fucking pulp by said meaninglessness. There’s the werewolf who seeks acceptance in the world that rejects him, the guy who stakes his live on the existence of incorporeal strings sprouting from everything, and the gent who fights to break out of a zombie ruled post-apocalyptic world in order to make it to the wasteland on the other side. You’ve got these people with good intentions who are just obviously spending their lives fucking themselves over. It’s goddamned painful to watch.
So I think that the "abortion" part refers to the destruction of an idea. Each character experiences a quickening of his own: a means of popularity, escape, or survival. But the uncooperative world decimates that idea, striking it down almost as soon as the epiphany is felt. This seems familiar….where have I experienced this before…. Oh! Yes! Ass Goblins of Auschwitz! And who wrote that again?…. Oh yeah…..
It seems as if Cameron Pierce is actually trying to say something…
But is he saying that it’s really the fault of the unforgiving universe? There is that sad theme of self-sabotage. The willful destruction of the love letter. The willful eating of the face. The willful cutting of the strings.* It’s all about these guys destroying their own dreams. Aborting them, if you will.
But that’s the easy part, isn’t it? It doesn’t take a philosophical heavyweight to argue that one can abort oneself or one’s ideas. The arcade, I think, is the thing. The obvious answer (the house of fun and frivolity) is misleading. Why? Because this book may be bizarro, but it isn’t fun. At least not in a funny way. Even hitting sloths with a bicycle can be given an air of solemnity.** It’s got to be more. Of course, that also has to be part of it, or the joke would be in absentia. And that wouldn’t be fair at all.
I think the "arcade" refers to a passageway. Something like the passage of time, but less measurable. The passage of a life, perhaps, or an idea. Because the pain doesn’t come with what happens at the end of each story. They’re all pretty goddamned fucked up (don’t get me wrong), but it’s the sense of loss we experience as readers. We’ve traveled a ways with these characters an, on some level, we wished them the best. Because they’re not characters to be loathed. They’re you and me. They have dreams, but, unfortunately for them (and us) they live in a fucked up world completely devoid of purpose. So their pain is our pain. Those cut strings are your divorce. That missing face belonged to your high school boyfriend. That love letter was what could have been, but wasn’t.
Because, folks, our collective experience is the abortion arcade. It’s the details that don’t make one bit of difference.
*These things might possibly be construed as spoilers if only you had any idea what the fuck I was talking about. Muahahahahahaha!
**See previous footnote.