19 may. 2006

According to Silliman's blog, Gil Sorrentino has passed away.

He was my teacher at Stanford. I owe my first critical publication to him. I wrote papers on Koch and O'Hara for him as well as my article on WCW.

He was certainly in the tolerate no fools category--something I respected. Why he tolerated me is another question. I guess he was making an exception. Maybe it was because I saved his WCW seminar by always having something to say. He had never taught Graduate Courses before and was certainly out of his element--pedagogically that is. He certainly knew Williams backwards and forwards. He is "GS" in Paterson. Author of the letters signed "GS." Bet you didn't know that.

Maria Damon was in class the first day. She didn't like the fact that he was making male modernist poets like Williams into martyrs, complaining about how neglected they were. But it is important to realize that respect was very late in coming to Williams.

I also met my best Grad school friend, Bob Basil, in that class. Bob occasionally comments on this blog, using the name "Bob."

Gil didn't like teaching writing. He told me with scorn in his voice that the people in the writing program actually wanted to be professional writers and publish in the New Yorker. He made it sound an ignoble goal.

He loved Sonny Rollins.

I loved his ironic spoken "scare quotes." He was a funny guy. In Baraka's memoirs there is a thing about Gil, where Baraka is excited about the Cuban revolution and Gil says something about how he isn't crazy about all those guys in military uniforms. Kind of prophetic, in a way.

He didn't like the SF bay area much. Moved back to Brooklyn later.

His novels are better known and maybe even better than his poetry. Yet I still view him as a poet. I picked up some first editions of his works when I was in New York last Spring.

12 comentarios:

Javierigl dijo...

?He didn't like the SF bay area much?

Excuse me, Jonathan, for my ignorant question. I'm an outsider. I think you don't like also the SF bay area too much. You do like (is evident) NY. Why that exclusion or radical inclusion? Are both gangs incompatible?

Jonathan dijo...

I like the SF bay area very much myself. My parents grrew up in Berkeley and for us San Francisco was simply "The City." On the other hand I never lived in New York. only up state New York in Ithaca.

Sorrentino found SF provincial and small-townish in comparison with NYC. I was simplly stating a fact about him.

Javierigl dijo...

You know the ?gangs? or schools I'm referring to: SF Renaisance, Black Mountain and his sequels and, against it, NY School (O'Hara, Schuyler, Koch, Berrigan, Guest...) Born enemies? Like in Spanish Baroque culterans and conceptists?

Bob dijo...

Gil had a magnificent speaking voice. It seemed at times that there was nothing better in the world than listening to him talk: He was hilarious, dramatic, vivid. He performed monologues of disdain better than anyone. (Asking him about Clayton Eshleman, for instance, guaranteed a memorable rant.)

On a personal note, I want to add that Gil was always in my corner back when I was at Stanford. I could totally trust him. He was a real good guy. He wasn't one of those professors, by the way, who wanted to be "your pal" -- I can practically hear him say the word "pal" with relish and scorn. He would be your *teacher* --> friendly, open, and generous, and on the proper side of the boundary.

I might add that I concur with Jonathan's memories about Gil's first seminar.

Bob dijo...

There are a lot of great writers who wrote for NEON or KULCHUR or published at Grove Press who know how gifted an *editor* Gil was. I was blessed to have had Gil edit an early publication of my own, a memoir of Robert Creeley's University of Buffalo teaching career. Ay yi yi! --> He could hardly stop laughing when he returned my draft to me, there was so much that was false in what I had written: pretentious, stupid, clunky, self-important. "So I took all that shit out," he said. I published the half that was left (in Robert Creeley: The Poet's Workshop). It's still a nifty piece.

Jonathan dijo...

He admired SF poets like Spicer as well as "Black Mountain" folks and NY City school poets. It's true that he had his strong dislikes too. I remember him referring to John Gardner as "the Robert Bly of prose." In other words, someone who simply could not write.

Bob dijo...
Este comentario ha sido eliminado por un administrador del blog.
Bob dijo...

Interestingly, he enjoyed bad writing even if he didn't esteem it. He found it funny. Reading passages of Gardner out loud, he would laugh until he literally cried. Once after he got to a passage where Gardner describes his character as having "a red-headed face," it took him a couple of minutes to gather his composure. Great memories ...

[deleted last post by mistake!]

Tim dijo...

I can hardly call myself a "student" of Gil Sorrentino's, seeing as I was in his grad class on contemporary fiction for about three weeks. (I do still own all the books, though: Burroughs, Acker, Matthews, Daitch, etc.: a hell of a reading list.) I'm guessing he never quite got over his unease with graduate teaching; it was wonderful to hear him talk but painful to listen to the other students struggle with the texts in front of them.

I do remember the day a few years later when we were reading Paterson in Al Gelpi's class and we realized that "GS" was Gil Sorrentino. That was pretty cool.

Gary dijo...

Mulligan Stew was one of my all-time favorite novels.

fairest dijo...

does anyone know the name of the GS novel that's all in questions?

Jonathan dijo...

Gold Fools, I think it is. Also "A Beehive arranged according to human principles" I believe is all in quetions.