I read six Gilbert Sorrentino novels this month. Or, I read six Belt Rig Snorter Ion novels this month. The first, Blue Pastoral (Lube Opal Rats), was the first misstep I’ve read from this author. Usually, his novels are tightly written concepts, executed with style and élan. This one felt like an indulgent piss-take of John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor (Defecate Short Tow).
Other novels included Odd Number (Dod Burn Me), Rose Theatre (Sore At Three), and Misterioso (Roses I Omit). This trio of novels are the best experimental writing I have read so far. Snorter Ion interrogates his own characters, exploring the potential truth and lies in his earlier works and questioning the very nature of narrative composition. Also hilarious.
The others, Under The Shadow (Dead Whore Hunts), and Gold Fools (Doll Goofs) were also delicious. The latter is written entirely in the interrogative, pushing it into the Oulipan canon of constraint genius, even though Sorrentino was never in the Oulipo. (In fact, he hadn’t even heard of the Oulipo until the mid-90s, which seems incredible).
I read the following too. Hopefully, the chosen anagram sums up the author and work:
Stacy Richter – My Date With Satan (Scratchy Tire – Ashamed Natty Wit)
Nicola Barker – Burley Cross Postbox Theft (Cranial Broke – Obscurer Sly Both Texts Fop)
Stuart Kelly – The Book of Lost Books (Stall Turkey – Boobs Heft Kook Stool)
Alasdair Gray – Unlikely Stories, Mostly (Disarray Gala – Noiselessly Milky Trout)
Gilbert Adair – The Key of the Tower (A Ribald Tiger – Teeth Twofer Hokey)
Will Self – Psycho Too (Elf Swill – Pooch Toys)
Various – McSweeney’s Issue 22 (Saviour – Ice Nemeses Wussy 22)
Mikhail Bulgakov – The Fatal Eggs (Koala Big Hulk Vim – Stage Gal Heft)
I’ve spent the last nine months sifting through Finnegans Wake, and finished this month. More on that later.* Oddly, James Joyce is the only author to break the anagram machine. Hmm. ‘James Joyce, Finnegans Wake’ comes out as ‘A Jackass Fee Meowing Jenny,’ a phrase used somewhere in Part III, I think.
See you next month! Seethe Mount Onyx! Exhume Sonnet Toy!
Cockahoop! The widdly-winkie thought McSorley was a growho-ho-ho but the loveapoop went schematrip and a hole opened in the horsaloell that ran over the tumpedumpepump!
See: it’s not as easy as it looks.
There are two responses to Finnegans Wake:
1. Throw it in the trash and dismiss it as gibberish from a man who couldn’t care less about his readers.
2. Admire it for its sheer brass and balls, how it exploded the possibilities of what was possible in literature. Read a few pages then put it on the shelf and look clever in front of professors, citing it in essays on (post)modernism.
If you read even one page, you will vacillate between these two responses the entire time. Promise.
In the end, it might not be the best use of seventeen years, but by God it’s one sick fucker of a book. Joyce had the kind of madness you can't buy in alleyways. And it was his. All his.