A Strange Commonplace
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“Sorrentino [is] a writer like no other. He’s learned, companionable, ribald, brave, mathematical, at once virtuosic and somehow without ego. Sorrentino’s books break free of the routine that inevitably accompanies traditional narrative and through a passionate renunciation shine with an unforgiving, yet cleansing, light.”—Jeffrey Eugenides
“For decades, Gilbert Sorrentino has remained a unique figure in our literature. He reminds us that fiction lives because artists make it. …To the novel—everyone’s novel—Sorrentino brings honor, tradition, and relentless passion.”—Don DeLillo
Borrowing its title from a William Carlos Williams poem, A Strange Commonplace lays bare the secrets and dreams of characters whose lives are intertwined by coincidence and necessity, possessions and experience. Ensnared in a jungle of city streets and suburban bedroom communities from the boozy 1950s to the culturally vacuous present, lines blur between families and acquaintances, violence and love, hope and despair. As fathers try to connect with their children, as writers struggle for credibility, as wives walk out, and an old man plays Russian roulette with a deck of cards, their stories resonate with poignancy and savage humor—familiar, tragic, and cathartic.
Gilbert Sorrentino is the author of more than 30 books, including Little Casino, finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. A critical and influential figure in postmodern American literature, he is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Lannan Literary Award. His frequent appearances on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm can be heard at www.kcrw.org. Once an editor at Grove Press, Sorrentino is professor emeritus at Stanford University and lives in Brooklyn.
and gray sadness, near despair. He opened the door and stood there, a little dull animal, the wet March air coming into the kitchen. My shoes came open, Mama. She knelt down and tied them and he went out again, closing the door. The sky was turning livid as the pale, silvery sun went down. She put a bottle of Worcestershire sauce on the table, poured the sweet, orange, bottled dressing on the lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad, and tossed it, then set the table for three. It was about time for
thinly smiling Mother, constantly drying her hands on her coarse apron, save when she is patting her severe bun into place, knows that her Yossel will be a Great Success some day. She looks very much like Ann Revere or Dorothy Adams, although her name is Sarah. Yes, he will make her proud one day, with his good grades and deep love of Education, even though she worries, at times, about his fascination with baseball. “Eat, eat, my darling,” she says, setting a steaming plate of Hearty Ethnic Food
the Boss of Cunningham Mining, and the owner of West Virginia and most of Kentucky. “Another fly in your web, Monica?” he’d roar. “Ha ha ha! See that it doesn’t cost me too much this time, my dear!” Hal has almost stopped writing, for his days are a Mad Whirl of polo, croquet, riding to hounds, fast cars, and brandy, his nights a Dizzy Kaleidoscope of fine restaurants, night clubs, hot jazz, and champagne, and he has almost forgotten that he is really Yossel from the Slums. His Ma, settled in the
sleep with me any more,” she whispered to him. “He won’t, you know, do anything with me any more.” She was crying. Jack called her sister, but Anna wasn’t there. The bitch was pleased to hear that she’d just left. “Maybe you’ll get home for supper now once in a while before midnight,” she said. “Mind your fucking business,” he said and hung up. The couple at the bar lived on the same street as Jack and Anna, and the husband suggested that he take Anna home, she was really tight, he told his
what the hell do you think I’m gonna do? What do you think I am?” She smiled knowingly at him, an infuriating smile, smug and aggrieved. At that moment, whatever trust that still existed in their marriage disappeared. While Jack thanked his neighbors, Anna was telling them what a big shot salesman he was, how he could lay the law down to the branch manager, he was fearless, a hero, that’s why he had this great territory in East Flatbush and Canarsie, where there were maybe five businesses, but