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The experimental nature of Gilbert Sorrentino’s (1929-2006)[1] work results from his highly idiosyncratic blend of influences and proceduralist approach to fiction. As he confided to Charles Trueheart of Publishers Weekly, “form not only determines content, but form invents content.”[2] Sorrentino’s output commingles poetry and prose to an almost equal degree: by the time his first novel was published, two books of his poetry had come out, preoccupied with spatial presentation of language, an occupation shared by his fiction. His first two novels, The Sky Changes (1966) and Steelwork (1970), prefer spatial arrangement and non-chronological simultaneity to linear narrative progression. In Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things (1973), Sorrentino thematically satirises the New York avant-garde art world of the 1950s and 1960s, a world in which he played a part, while formally foregrounding his modernist heritage: each chapter is devoted to one of the eight principal characters and the novel proceeds by way of digression, anecdote, asides, and itemisations, all filtered through a single narrator.

First of Sorrentino’s formally experimental works is Splendide-Hôtel (1973), a short book consisting of twenty-six sections, each based on a letter of the alphabet and the images it suggests. As the back-cover blurb[3] makes clear, Splendide-Hôtel, influenced by the poetry of William Carlos Williams and Arthur Rimbaud—the title is taken from Rimbaud’s “Les Illuminations”—aims to rescue the poetic language from the grasp of commercialism. Dedicated to his old friend Hubert Selby, Sorrentino’s Splendide-Hôtel is meant as an antidote to what he saw as a general neglect of prose. Written in late 1970 and early 1971, the overall structure of the work is provided by the alphabet, and Sorrentino assembles fragments that tell no story and make no cumulative point. Rimbaud and Williams are touchstones for a series of exercises in style, which conserves—according to numerous Sorrentino interviews—the value of the artist in an age devoted to being entertained. The motto is Rimbaud’s “Et le Splendide-Hôtel fut bâti dans le chaos de glaces et de nuit du pôle” and below is a sample of the opening lines for a few letters:


A continuing rejuvenation? Of flies! Mouches éclatantes. The poet has it that this primal vowel is black. The great alpha, black A. “Black velvet coat of glittering flies.” Black, black. The A, sitting quietly on the page, wings folded back over the shining body. A, a fly. AA, two flies. […]


B-b-b-b-b. The sound an idiot makes. I remember Jo-Jo, ah, a perfect idiot name. A Mongoloid, shuffling down the street on the arm of his grey and faded Irish mother, punching himself in the face. […]


A poem may sometimes open to you, a flower; or it will close up suddenly, a trap, inside a nervous rat, moving in swift jerks. One sees, not the poem, but the poet’s absolute intent. Or, the floor unexpectedly opens, and a black underworld is glimpsed.

(SH, 7; 9; 19)

Sorrentino’s letter-based texts employ a whole range of techniques by which to bring home the associations. In the above quotation alone, there is the visual/material resemblance (“A” resembling a fly), the auditory/conceptual connection (“B” being “the sound an idiot makes”), or alliterative (“F” evoking a “flower,” a “floor,” etc.). The parts of the book constitute a celebration of language and of creativity.

Still in 1973, Sorrentino published Flawless Play Restored: The Masque of Fungo, a satire in the manner of Ben Jonson, which on its title page declared itself “part of a novel-in-progress presented in play form, but not intended for the stage.” In 1975 Sorrentino completed the novel—initially titled “Synthetic Ink”—in which the play was the centrepiece. Sections of the book appeared in various magazines beginning in 1973, but the nearly 450-page work was rejected by many publishing houses before being accepted by Grove Press, on the condition that the title be changed to Mulligan Stew, with its punning allusion to Buck Mulligan, and the novel was published in May 1979. Mulligan Stew, a mélange of literary bits and pieces that serves to demonstrate the breadth of its author’s technical skills while dismissing and parodying the avant-garde, is widely considered Sorrentino’s masterpiece. Sorrentino uses the simplest narrative frame (the plot of the novel concerning an author who attempts to write a story) on which to hang his collected knowledge, cultural awareness, and modernist technical expertise. The title’s frame of reference is Joyce, but as already its first reviews showed, the novel’s intertext encompasses Rabelais, Sterne, as well as the Flaubert of Bouvard et Pécuchet or the Flann O’Brien of At Swim-Two-Birds, to whose “virtue hilaritas” the novel is dedicated and who is also the source of an epigraph that prepares the reader for a book considered as a “personal musical instrument.” The other two mottoes are “Berserk. Berserk. Berserk! Berserk? Berserk! Berserk . . . ?” (attributed to Philip Vogel, in conversation) and “I done me best when I was let […] And lilting on all the time,” from the penultimate page of the Wake.

The novel is prefaced by a series of letters and a reader’s report detailing the difficulty of seeing such a novel into publication. One of the letters warns that the following wallows “in the mortal sin of bookishness,” and the novel is indeed composed ostentatiously of fictional documents—more letters; extracts from journals, scrapbooks, and notebooks; interviews; reviews; poems; as well as The Masque of Fungo. Sorrentino told John O’Brien that “every one of my books is an attempt to solve another fictional problem that I set myself,” and one the solutions he uses is “inventing another voice or another group of voices.”[4] Sorrentino lifts characters from other novels to populate Mulligan Stew, drawing Ned Beaumont from Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key (1931) and Antony Lamont from At Swim-Two-Birds. Martin Halpin finds himself “plucked out of the wry, the amused footnote in which I have resided faceless, for all these years, in the work of that gentlemanly Irishman, Mr. Joyce” (MS, 26), and transplanted into a novel being written by Lamont, within the work of Sorrentino:

I can’t understand how Mr. Joyce allowed him to take me away! Surely, it can’t have been for money! Or does Mr. Joyce even know that I have gone? Maybe he’s dead. […] Mr. Joyce, knowing that I could do nothing at all, merely stated, stated, mind you, that I performed “odd jobs.” […] If there is one thing I learned while working for Mr. Joyce, it is that one cannot escape for long from a writer, unless he decides to completely rewrite a whole section. (MS, 26-7)

This “plucking out” occurred from FW 266.F2, where he makes a brief appearance as the originator of the phrase “to make hobbyhodge happy in his hole,” and is presented as “an old gardener from the Glens of Antrim who used to do odd jobs for my godfather, the Rev. B.B. Brophy of Swords.” The character Antony Lamont is writing a novel within Sorrentino’s novel, and midway through the book, Lamont’s characters try to escape and go their own way. Mulligan Stew traces the decline of Lamont into bitterness and paranoia, and the consequent squandering of his creative energies in his struggle to write.

Part of this creative dissipation mapped throughout the book is Sorrentino’s staple device: the catalogue structure, which oftentimes takes the form of mere lists of words on exhibit. The lists occur at all levels of narration and include a list of books and periodicals found in the fictional cabin (MS, 31-35). The list’s humour lies in its allusiveness as well as its treatment of characters as authors themselves: thus, alongside “How to Understand the Deaf by James Joyce,” there are also books such as “Having That Affair by B. Boylan,” “Say Yes to Love by Molly Bloom,” “The Layman’s Missal by Buck Mulligan,” or “James: Preserves and Jellies by Stuart Gorman” (MS, 31-4). As the narrator remarks in an ironic aside, “whatever one may make of such a list I don’t know. Certainly Ned has no idea what it means” (MS, 35). There are recurring lists of “questions and answers” in the scrapbook; the answers are often lists in themselves. The embedded short story “O’Mara” is nothing but lists of insufferable clichés cataloguing everything the “hero” likes and everything he dislikes (MS, 66-75). The “Anonymous Sketch” begins with the phrase “a maker of maddening lists” (MS, 259) and accordingly, the whole paragraph then becomes a list, the sketch construed around lists of editorial descriptions. There are also lists (in the mode of “Ithaca”) of merely potential, not actual items, e.g. a two-page list of what Halpin would have preferred to find instead of what he did find (MS, 411-13). Mulligan Stew even ends with a list from Beaumont’s second letter to Halpin (MS, 439-45): “a list of gifts given by writers to characters of theirs who have patiently waited for years and years, after working like dogs, in manuscript and long-forgotten and out-of-print books—waited to be seen and known, loved and hated. Tokens of their employers’ esteem and gratitude” (MS, 439). The problem of finding a suitable audience for a novel like Mulligan Stew is in fact directly addressed in its own initial pages—e.g. through the series of rejection letters received by “Gilbert Sorrentino” (rejecting the book we are about to read). “Lookit,” writes one “Edgar Naylor,” a “Senior Editor,” “you are talking to a man who would have turned down ‘Aunt Lydia Plurabelle’—and with no regrets” (MS, 7).

James Joyce, notoriously, features among the characters of The Masque of Fungo. The list of dramatis personae lists “James Joyce, a grocer’s assistant” alongside e.g. “Fucking Whore” or “Harry the Crab.” His contribution is reduced, by and large, to one-line replicas, witticisms, or shibboleths, all culled from the Wake, such as “A vagrant need is a flagrant weed” (MS, 198; FW 294.F3); “He ought to blush for himself” (MS, 199; FW 47.1); “Respect the uniform” (MS, 201; FW 579.14); “One must sell it to someone, the sacred name of love” (207; FW 268.F1); “Note his sleek hair, so elegant, tableau vivant” (MS, 209; FW 65.7); “I rose up one maypole morning and saw in my glass how nobody loves me but you” (MS, 212; FW 249.26); “I believe in Dublin and the Sultan of Turkey” (MS, 213; FW 266.F1). The conclusion of the masque, then, is the following:

James Joyce: Ere we hit the hay, brothers, let’s have that response to prayer. (FW 307.F9)

ALL: No cheating. Unwary.

James Joyce: Loud, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low! (FW 259.7-8)

ALL: With laughters low! (MS, 216, my brackets)

What is remarkable about these Wakean borrowings is that, although borrowed from across the book, they are without exception instances of plain, common language, devoid of the Wakean punning deformations or portmanteau complexification. In a sense, Sorrentino’s masque unmasks the myth of the Wake as a difficult book, and dismantles its fetishisation as the avant-garde text by showing how much of it is not avant-garde at all. Sorrentino’s metafictional or self-reflexive treatment of characters, their employment at his hands as little more than value functions within the exchange processes at the literary market, as well as the nature of his Wakean borrowings, underlie his critique of the mythologies—popular and elitist—of its culture. As C. H. Werner has noted, this treatment of character as commodity has to do with Sorrentino’s suggested antidote to his pessimist diagnosis of the state of American cultural life.[5] A function of the society, a writer, however subversive, writes of that society, within the society. Nowhere is this clearer than through the foil of Lamont’s novel whose ample excerpts are scattered all through Mulligan Stew. For instance, Chapter 10, “Nameless Shamelessness,” describes an encounter between Halpin, Beaumont, the woman of their dreams Daisy Buchanan, and Mesdames Corrie Corriendo and Berthe Delamode, a pair of pornographers—prostitutes with whom they have become entangled—literally, as in the following:

I saw Madame Corriendo lie back on the couch, entreating Daisy to forbidden pleasures with a look so flamy that I quaked with lust. And Daisy, who still talked haltingly on of our moral obligations toward dear Ned Beaumont, suddenly ceased, and gently lowered herself to the floor; on hands and knees, cooing softly and deeply in her ivory throat, she crawled toward the lush rose that Madame Corriendo, panting, proffered her, while I helplessly began to undo my curiously constricting trousers. (MS, 324)

Lamont’s supposedly “stylish” take on writing is here undermined penchant for the trite phrase (“forbidden pleasures,” “quaked with lust,” “ivory throat”) and the gauche euphemism (“lush rose”); he could be no more successful as pornographer as he is as an avant-gardist (a failure). Stylistic lushness, then, is arguably even less effective in a genre that requires a minimum of obfuscation.

A chapter of Lamont’s novel entitled “Making It Up As We Goes Along” (FW 268.F2) is not only another allusion to a footnote in the same section of the Wake which introduces Martin Halpin to the literary world, but also Sorrentino’s point that, indeed, a writer does make up his fiction as he goes along, from the linguistic material conditions of his culture, the inevitable result being that the fiction inevitably reflects the culture. Notes Werner, “just as Joyce filled the Wake with references to cricket stars, Sorrentino fills Mulligan Stew with allusions to baseball players.” Similarly, the literary myth of Joyce’s Leopold Bloom is no more important to Mulligan Stew than e.g. the myth of Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan. As Werner correctly observes, “Sorrentino, like Joyce, accepts and employs everything which falls within his experience without aesthetic preconceptions either realistic or romantic,” insisting only that “we work with the full range of the experience at our disposal.”[6] Echoing the final question of the catechism chapter of the Wake, Sorrentino writes: “Q: When is a man not a man? A: When he is a sham” (MS, 42). In a culture of sham, men become shams/characters as characters/shams become men, as does the Joyce whom Sorrentino salutes in the closing “credits” to Mulligan Stew as “Joky Joyce who lost her undies” (MS, 440), as “Joyce the Jewel of the merchant fleet” (MS, 444), and as “Jimmy the Joy of Dublin” (MS, 445) – a single man of many shams.

The 1979 publication of Mulligan Stew marked the climax of the self-reflexive novel in the US letters, appearing alongside such works as Gaddis’s J R, Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, and Barth’s LETTERS. However, Sorrentino’s book “appeared at a time when critical attention was beginning to shift toward the various forms of minimalist neorealism that would dominate the 1980s and 1990s” and so “the Stew was too easily dismissed as a vestige of a waning era, a wildly excessive book that seemed increasingly out of step with the sour and sober fiction of the minimalists.”[7] Sorrentino’s style changed, too, and never again did he repeat the stylistic exuberance of the Stew; however, he still went on writing experimental works, each of which developed its own unique form. Indicative of his overall approach is his 1981 review of Exercises in Style, Barbara Wright’s translation of Raymond Queneau’s stunning set of variations on a banal theme. His conclusion neatly sums up the position from which Sorrentino has written all his fiction, but which appears most immediately pertinent to the works beginning with Blue Pastoral and climaxing in the trilogy: “What it posits, in a great bravura performance, is the joyous heresy that will not go away, despite the recrudescence of such aesthetic nonsense as Moral Responsibility, Great Themes, and Vast Issues as the business of fiction, and that heresy simply states: form determines content.”[8]

In his next novel, Aberration of Starlight (1980), Sorrentino turns to a more conventional form, writing a story set on the New Jersey coast near the end of the Great Depression and concerning four characters, each of whom narrates the events of thirty-six hours at a local boarding house. Crystal Vision (1981) marks a return to intertextual design based on the Tarot deck and featuring a series of 78 unconnected stories. It is in Odd Number (1985), Rose Theater (1987) and Misterioso (1989), all three of which published in 1989 under the title, Pack of Lies, that Sorrentino blends the perspectivism of Aberration of Starlight with the design/procedure of Crystal Vision. Pack of Lies presents the three novels as trilogy, however, there are a few noteworthy aspects according to which this conventional appellation fails to apply, not least of which being the undermining of narrative linearity and character identity.[9] The basic constraint suggested by the title of Odd Number is a division of the text into three sections comprised of thirty-three questions – an interrogation for which no reason is ever provided. In accordance with Sorrentino’s creed, the form induces the content: the questioning serves to direct the novel toward a particular discourse, that of the detective or mystery story. The questions are posed by an unidentified interrogator, the answers provided by an unidentified informant:

Was it still twilight, or had it already grown dark?

If you’ll again permit me to get my notes in order, I’ll     according to my data, what there is of it, it was not yet              quite dark, yet it was just past what is usually called twilight     certainly it was not yet dark enough not to be able to see, since it is clear that the three of them were seen in the street, beneath a plane tree  it was a soft evening          late spring (PL, 9)

The responses, as can be seen, are presented as replete with lacunae, elisions or deletings, implying a third agency mediating, and interfering with, the transcript of the interrogation. The fact that the questions of part one are repeated in reverse order in the second part of the novel, suggests that the interrogator has turned to a different informant, one who is, in contrast with the taciturnity of his predecessor, now loquacious, adorning his responses with irrelevant digressions and personal associations. Then, a brief final section follows where the same interrogator (presumably) questions a third informant who presents evidence contradicting the previous two testimonies. This cyclicality is, then, enhanced in Odd Number’s conclusion: a continuous loop of text that would seem to describe the novel before us: “On his desk there is a manuscript, a typescript, to be precise, of a little more than a hundred and fifty pages . . . Next to the manuscript is a single sheet of white paper on which there is typed a paragraph that reads:” (PL, 146), with the text repeating itself up to the colon, implying repetition ad infinitum. The absence of a framing narrative that would explain the reasons behind the interrogation ultimately undercuts the teleology of the narrative.

Rose Theater contrasts the austerity of Odd Number with punning verbal exuberance. In the first section, entitled Littel alter, the Wake is acknowledged as a source to some of the text’s experimentation:

Do Not Disterb. It was the McCoy, a honeymoon suite from which the ocean could be glimpsed. In the dark, in Asbury Park, for a lark. Quark quark. Finnegans Wake that’s from. Art which rescued him from the provincial. Right. Quark you. Oh Dick, the thteak is wuined. Just like in the movies. With ascot all undone and in a generally unbuttoned state, the young woman but partically dressed, he ascendeth to the Seventh Heaven. A far cry from Mechanicville. A girdle! That was in a nother country, you can bet the rent on that. He preferred Dubliners, yes, I prefer Dubliners, to tell the truth. Self-denigrating smile. To tell the what? Father Graham turned to face them, his best vatic smile beaming. It’s a sin to laugh in church. (PL, 158)

Rose Theater introduces the inner lives and outer circumstances of the principal female characters (ten in total) in Odd Number. It is constructed according to the principle of the catalogue, the fiction continuously referring to itself as a “found object,” a catalogue of ultimately arbitrary, theatrical properties representing nothing more than the artifice of fiction, its fifteen chapters named for an inventory of props found in London’s Rose Theatre in 1598. As Sorrentino states in Rose Theatre’s dust jacket, it sets out to correct the errors of its predecessor, but “in its desire to stabilize and clarify, adds new and unsettling material to that which we already possess.”

Finally, Misterioso takes its title from a song by jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. In 1983, four years before he started writing it, Sorrentino wrote to O’Brien that he envisaged “a book that is a series of lists and catalogues—no narrative, no characters, no author, and no place or time or action, no nothing but those words that ‘tend towards maximum entropy.’”[10] Although not quite as chaotic as Sorrentino anticipated, Misterioso is still a singularly opaque recapitulation of figures and events from the first two books of the trilogy. Its structure is based on the alphabet, and the order into which the names of characters and places, titles, some substantive nouns, and other attributes appear to fall surfaces within the first few pages. Where Abish’s Alphabetical Africa unleashes a strict, chapter-by-chapter process of addition and subsequent reduction, Misterioso has no chapter or section divisions, only blank slugs that separate text whose scope ranges from a single sentence to several paragraphs in length. If Rose Theater concludes on the inconclusive note “Now, what” (PL, 283), then Misterioso opens on a hopeful one:

Perhaps a question will open the way to resolution, for instance: Why does this old A&P supermarket, with its wooden floors, narrow aisles, and overabundance, or so some think, of house-brand canned goods and bakery products, display, as if carelessly forgotten atop a binful of Granny Smith apples, a seemingly well-read paperback copy of Absalom! Absalom!? (PL, 289)

The alphabetical constraint is responsible for the orderly disorder of the text. The reader experiences the alphabetised materials of the text as blatant artifice, the imposition of an implausible ordering of persons, places and things. As Conte has shown, “these materials are brought into proximity by lexicographical accident, selected according to a principle that is foreign to the development of character, scene, or plot.”[11] There are not twenty-six sections, each one featuring names beginning with the appropriate letter of the alphabet, but twenty-five: The missing section—crossed out—should be devoted to X; instead, X is found in the penultimate paragraph of the novel, mysteriously lurking among the Zs. With reference to Sorrentino’s own pronouncements, Conte has contextualised this anomaly via the Oulipian theory of the clinamen.

None of Sorrentino’s books after Misterioso (be it Under the Shadow [1991] or Red the Fiend [1995]) achieves the kind of complexity and stylistic variety of Mulligan Stew or the trilogy. They are still imbued with “the kind of physical charge and excitement more often associated with jazz and improvisational comedy than with literature,” which Newsweek writer Ray Sawhill discerned in his review of Blue Pastoral, but no longer “overflow with elaborate literary contrivances and games” to quite the same extent.[12] This might be due to what Jeremy Davies has recently encapsulated as a key topic of Sorrentino’s fiction: a “conflict between a love of elaborate falsification and a disgust for the false fought to a draw over and over again,” which, for the reader, is “deeply unsettling,” and for the literary establishment “deeply unfashionable, as it must needs be.”[13] The example of Sorrentino’s (mis-)use of Joyce’s literary experiment as well as persona analysed here seems to accord with Davies’ conclusion, that unlike his modernist predecessors, Sorrentino’s work “may not be generative, as his own idols/models/favourites’ were,” closing rather than opening ways of writing. Sorrentino’s parodic dismantling of the fetishisation of the Wake as the avant-garde text by showing how much of it is not avant-garde at all chimes with what Davies discerns as the most unsettling, unfashionable, and thus marginalizing aspect at stake – the purposeful un- or anti-literariness of Sorrentino’s poetics: “Sorrentino’s fiction is bleak, is unpopular, perhaps because it is ‘high’ literature with no interest in romanticizing the literary,” and for all its sensuality, Sorrentino’s writing is “literature that loves literature, but is not broadly in favour of literature.”[14] It is as a direct result of this poetic practice that the establishment, whether of the academia or the marketplace, has ignored Sorrentino, and continues now to ignore him.


[1] Sorrentino was born in Brooklyn and spent most of his life in New York. He married twice and had three children, and served, via conscription, in the Army Medical Corps from 1951 to 1953, after which he began to write fiction. Early in his literary career, Sorrentino cofounded Neon magazine and served as its publisher and editor from 1956 to 1960. When Neon folded, he took a book editor position with Kulcher and then with Grove Press, where he witnessed a revolutionary period in avant-garde publishing. By the time he left Grove in 1970, Sorrentino had published several works of poetry and fiction. From that point forward, he continued to publish consistently and worked in various faculty positions for institutions including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, the New School for Social Research, the University of Scranton, and finally Stanford University, where he served as a professor of English from 1982 to 1999 and then professor emeritus.

[2] Qtd. in Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature (New York: Merriam Webster, 1995) 1053.

[3] “Arthur Rimbaud’s invented Splendide-Hôtel, “built in the chaos of ice and of the polar night,” provides the occasion for Gilbert Sorrentino’s imaginative meditation on letters and language. Each chapter serves as an opportunity for the author to expand on thoughts and images suggested by a letter of the alphabet, as well as to reflect upon the workings of the imagination, particularly in the art of William Carlos Williams and Arthur Rimbaud. Reminiscent of the philosophical treatise/poem On Being Blue by William H. Gass, Splendide-Hôtel is a Grand Hotel of the mind, splendidly conceived.”

[4] Qtd. in Julian Cowley, “Gilbert Sorrentino,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 173: American Novelists Since World War II, Fifth Series, eds. James R. Giles & Wanda H. Giles (The Gale Group: Northern Illinois University, 1996) 252.

[5] “He demonstrates that the ‘character’ Halpin is as much a function of the disintegrating world of the ‘experimental’ writer Lamont as he was of the ‘quiet world’ of the ‘gentlemanly’ Joyce. Sorrentino makes the point that one’s view of the universe depends in large part on one’s position in that universe; few of the characters in Finnegans Wake lead such a sedate life as Halpin. But S extends his discussion to indicate that Lamont (and by extension Sorrentino, also an ‘experimental’ novelist) is himself a function of the culture in which he lives” (C. H. Werner, Paradoxical Resolutions, [Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois Press, 1982] 198-9).

[6] Werner, Paradoxical Resolutions, 199.

[7] Daniel Green, “’Terribly Bookish’: Mulligan Stew and the Comedy of Self-Reflexivity,” Critique 41.3 (Spring 2000): 243.

[8] Qtd. in Cowley, “Gilbert Sorrentino,” 253.

[9] As Conte has noted, “the names of characters reprise in each of the novels, but in violation of literary convention, the characters are assigned different attributes. Each is a shifting signifier in a complex lang game. One will have to find some other rationale than linear (narrative) sequence for grouping these three novels together, in the order in which they appear” (Conte, Design and Debris [Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002], 88).

[10] Qtd. in Cowley, “Gilbert Sorrentino,” 254.

[11] Conte, Design and Debris, 96.

[12] “Sorrentino has the mind of an avant-garde experimentalist and the instincts of a profane showman. His novels overflow with elaborate literary contrivances and games, and the titles he gives them […] lead you to expect one hall of mirrors after another. But there’s nothing dry or ingrown about his writing. His novels have the kind of physical charge and excitement more often associated with jazz and improvisational comedy than with literature.” (Ray Sawhill, “Blue Pastoral – A Review,” Newsweek [July 4, 1983]).

[13] Jeremy Davies, “Well You Needn’t, Motherfucker: Sorrentino Underground,” Hidden Agendas: Unreported Poetics, ed. Louis Armand (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2010).

[14] Davies, “Sorrentino Underground,” 112.

About Equus Press

EQUUS was established in 2011 with the objective of publishing innovative & translocal writing.


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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
July 2014
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