Saturday, July 28, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 41 (Gilbert Sorrentino)

Splendide-Hôtel
Sorrentino, Gilbert
Splendide-Hôtel

Given to me by Matvei Yankelevich when he stayed with us in Buffalo last year. I think he bought it at Rust Belt Books. Inscribed:

To Mike & Lori

in gratitude for splendid 
hospitality. Yrs–

Matvei
Buffalo 3/2011

Matvei brought this book up in conversation as we were discussing my blog, I think because of its abecedarian structure. It went on my nightstand once he gave it to me, but did not get read. What with the move and all, I nearly forgot about it. Actually, to be honest, I did forget about it until I saw Matvei at a reading in Brooklyn about two months ago.

He asked if I had ever gotten around to reading the Sorrentino book he'd given me. I had completely forgotten about it. I wracked my brain trying to remember the book. I remembered the conversation but I could not even picture the cover the book. Matvei took it in stride, no offense taken, and suggested again that I read it.

And I am glad he did.

Immediately on arriving home I went to the bookcase to see if I even had the book. My main fear was that I had given it away when I purged my library on the way out of town. But there it was. I immediately put it into my computer bag and spent the next couple of weeks reading it on my lunch break at work.

It's a fascinating example of the genre (of the abecedarium, that is). It reads like a series of prose poems that don't feel like poems, or narratives that don't feel like stories. It's a hybrid of a hybrid. I don't know what it is. It's a great read, though, whatever you want to call it.

from Splendide-Hôtel

from  A

We go about our business in the rooms and corridors of the Splendide-Hôtel. Outside, the black polar night, a chaos of glaciers. In the ballroom, a false orchestra plays false music to which all are dancing. In a small suite somewhere in the rear of the hotel, the poet has abandoned his egoistic rumblings and writes a manifesto that all may understand. Those who loathe and fear the wispiest touch of the beautiful will rejoice in his new-found relevance, and even more in his impotence. Thus is he finally honored for the specious, this dispossessed man whose hated configurations of the imagination now paper the walls. Later, of course, he will go crazy and be awarded a medal. Let us assume it will be called the Medal of Artistic Freedom.

And now the walls are creaking with the weight of the black glaciers that press upon the darkening hotel. You will understand that this is a fantasy: poets are excellent at those and at times are also amusing in their ceaseless babble.

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