9 may. 2005

Much of Sorrentino's work is a brief against faux-hipness--the belief in one's superiority based on one's artistic taste or intellectual armature, especially when this taste is itself corrupt. Lunar Follies and The Moon in its Flight, which I'm reading now, certainly falls in this category, as does the much earlier Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things. While good art doesn't make you a better person, bad art is even worse, even more corrupting. Sorrentino would not be as brilliant a satirist if he weren't a kind of moralist underneath it all. Even the metafictional games have a "moral," like "don't confuse fakery with the real thing." All hipness is faux.

The poet/anti-hero of a Sorrentino novel or short story is often a talentless poet, or even worse a poet who has squandered his talent. He is a figure who has no gravitas. Someone I know once referred to someone we both knew with the phrase "Il n'est pas une personne sérieuse." At best, flimsy; at worst, rotten to the core. Sorrentino is one of the best reviewers as well. His essays bear a second look.

I worked a lot with Sorrentino when in Graduate School. He was not the type to waste time with a lot of small talk, or "to suffer fools gladly." You had to prove yourself. He had wonderful comments on my papers and was quite encouraging, helping me to get my first article published. He probably liked me in part because I knew my WCW; that at least gave me some credibility. Hell, I even knew my Sorrentino, though I never discussed his own work with him.

I am (re)reading GS (he is the "GS" in WCW's Paterson, by the way) because I fortuitously came upon some editions in Gotham Book Mart, then was almost coincidentally sent some review copies from Coffee House books shortly after.