This bare sketch doesn’t do justice to this slim novel, which offers a remarkable evocation of time and place, transcending what could, in lesser hands, have been a journal thinly disguised as memoir ... Kimberling is an exacting wordsmith capable of elegantly simple sentences, and his narrator’s observations are often dryly hilarious ... If several passages of dialogue are a touch arch and stagy, it’s forgivable. Possibly some readers will wish for deeper emotions, richer character development, or a story arc with a more pronounced curve, but others will delight in the digressions, historical asides, and trenchant observations in this tour of a Prague that no longer exists.
By leaving the inner lives of most characters unexplored, it throws attention onto its brightly lit episodes ... Each of these is like one of the tiny bright tesserae that make up mosaics. If you look closely, each looks separate, but from a distance they create a picture — in this case of people dealing with bizarre events beyond their control ... Likewise, in this novel author Brian Kimberling has created a vivid picture of a city creaking and shuddering as it settles into a new dispensation. It’s a picture that will ring true to anyone who visited the former Soviet bloc countries in the 1990s. Often the vignettes are funny, and the middle-aged skeptics who Elliott teaches and the crew of chancers he encounters often startle with their wit — and sometimes their cynicism ... This novel is quick to read, but its compelling pictures and insights will linger in the mind.
While amusing, in contrast to its literary forefathers, lacks substance ... Kimberling’s prose is clean, crisp, and full of sharp one-liners and observations ... The novel’s cast of two-dimensional characters which include Amanda, Elliott’s girlfriend, Valerie, an American expat and friend and fling of the narrator, Mr. Cimarron, an artist of sorts, and a few of Elliott’s students are all caricatures who engage in witty, perfectly phrased and timed banter ... While Goulash points out or pokes fun at the often-noted growing pains of the post-Soviet era in the Czech Republic and even lightly mocks the narrator’s small hometown in Indiana, it is unclear to what end. Much of the narrator’s observations are amusing but unlike, say, the narrator of Gessen’s A Terrible Country, the narrator learns nothing about himself or the country he’s visiting or contributes any insights about politics, culture, Prague, Eastern Europe, expats, slackers, or much else. Goulash is a fun read, but to quote Gertrude Stein, out of context, 'there’s no there there.'