Gilbert Sorrentino-Deo Gratia
Gilbert Sorrentino died this week. Sorrentino is a newer influence for my writing, I was introduced to him by a friend, Mark Tardi and it was immediate simpatico.
In a world of syncophants and literati who are more concerned with appearances Sorrentino was the real deal. His book Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things is a prophetic indictment of the kind of literary scene that is so prevelant today; based in appearances and lack of a true sense and more on who one knows and imagining oneself as something that you are not he tears into this world and brings light to scare away the roaches.
Sorrentino's literary essays are one book that I can read over and over again. Any critic who can make me rethink
Lorrine Neidecker is worth a read (I still hate her work). His essay on William Carlos Williams is so well reasoned that I have not found another to compare to it. His essay on Creeley brings together two of my personal lodestars.
Over the past two years we have lost Sorrentino and last year Robert Creeley and while Sorrentino was an academic and Creeley was not a lifelong academic there is a simpatico in terms of not being willing to play the game and wanting to be true to their literary project. A poet like Creeley, if he had even played a little of game would have surely won the Nobel Prize but instead his work stands as a mountain in the plains. Sorrentino too if he was the right type of writer would be up for these awards but atleast he won the Guggenheim.
Sorrentino too is a mountain.
His fiction, mostly published by Illinois' own wonderful Dalkey Archive Press, is innovative interesting and worth the time to devote to it. Sorrentino pissed allot of people off with his directness and clarity this is what I aspire to in my Poetry and if I piss people off that is an added bonus.
Sorrentino came out of Italian American Brooklyn and he was of White Ethnic poets and writers a generation with Phillip Roth, John Ciardi, Joseph Ceravolo, Ginsberg and many others who were truly New York area writers. The New York/New Jersey that was a unique place where people spoke with New York accents and did not learn their English at Choate. New York today is filled transplanted suburbanites who moved from Bucks County or other Suburbs to live the New York writer experience.
Sorrentino knew how to use the nexus of working class White Ethnic (read Italians, Jews, Eastern European, Portuguese, Others), with the intellectual world that is so often filled with fakirs. He is the only avant garde writer who could use the word Faccia Brutta and it not be fake. One of my favorite Sorrentino sections is from Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things Brooklyn/Paterson local where he dissects the realities of how people get published. Is it any wonder that Sorrentino was not loved in the literary world?
In the end Sorrentino was always uncompromising on what was good and what was not good and he made more enemies than friends but at least we knew where we stood.