May 24, 2006



Lots of blogs seemed to notice Sorrentino's passing, but few if any devoted any attention to his work while he was alive (including this one ... the sole pre-death mention of him seems to have been a mistaken attribution of "Trance," the novel by his son Christopher, to Gilbert).

It's a spectacle I think is unseemly: people falling all over themselves to lament the passing of a writer, to whom they didn't really devote any meaningful attention while he was alive. Maybe it's a desire to seem "in the know"; perhaps it's explained by the fact that blogs favor "newsy" stuff, over reading old books that aren't newsworthy. How often do you see a blog posting of the sort where someone says, "I just read five of Gilbert Sorrentino's books from the seventies and eighties, and they were terrific"? Never, in my experience.

Maybe he got no attention because he didn't have any big splashy releases? Why are new books, that receive so much attention here and on other literary blogs, more interesting than good, old books that have been neglected?


James, I usually leave the comments box to my readers, but when one gets it as wrong as you have, it becomes hard not to step in here.

First, you're incorrect about having made only one mistaken mention. You haven't reviewed my archives very carefully, so do have your facts straight, please. I did make the mistake in question but I'm also reasonably sure I corrected it when it was pointed out, and I'm sure I'm scarcely the first person to make that slip. How harshly you judge.

I also think your old books/new books argument is a non-starter. It's a meaningless distinction - why must one chose at all between the old and the new? This blog has mentioned plenty of older titles, as have numerous others. So again, the facts contradict your apparently cursory impressions.

But the biggest canard here is the notion that because I haven't written extensively about Sorrentino's work, this somehow bars me from noting his death. That's a pretty churlish position, James, and by your account I can only note the eventual passing of John Banville. This blog links to news and reviews and it also provides original reviews, interviews and more. Its brief is not so narrow as you would make out, and if I restricted myself to writing about things I have deep firsthand experience, well, the pickings would be slim, indeed. I provide a service to my readers of noting the literary news of the day, and one needn't have read all of Sorrentino's work to acknowledge his standing and his passing.

The real unseemliness is that you had an opportunity, clearly, to weigh in with some considered thoughts about his body of work, to spark a meaningful conversation, and instead opted for the mean spirited approach. Opportunity missed.

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