ODD NUMBER by Gilbert Sorrentino


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For those who have patience and a fondness for gossip, this 176-page cocktail, Sorrentino's latest literary punch-out, may provide some kicks and giggles. Is it a murder mystery? An examination of fictive means for measuring reality? A peek into Sheila's panties? It comes in three parts: The first, in fractured prose, is composed of answers to an interrogation based on collated evidence; the second, about half the book, is an insider's confessional description; and the third is a list of the contents of the drawers (bureau and other), arid of the greater spirits involved--the sum total of putative corpus delicti. There's a great deal of fingering, feeling, blowing, watching, buggering, photographing and talking. In nothing but shoes, stockings and garter belt, shimmering in the car's headlights, Sheila is run down--accidentally? on purpose?--by husband Lou. But all the reports are one Moebius strip; so, how can you tell which side who is on? Transvestites swim through the pages to the author's obvious delight, masking and unmasking, undressing more than dressing up, and scarcely anyone's sexuality stays still, or clear, for long. The set pieces that gave Crystal Vision (1981) its spunky humor are here too thinned out and narcissistic to delight a non-groupie. Blind fans of Yvor Winters get punched in the nose, and everyone and everything Middle American is ridiculed with what amounts to precious condescension. The hook ties into Sorrentino's 1983 Blue Pastoral by referring to that novel's featured pig-English novel-within-a-novel ""Les Musiques et les mauvaises herbes,"" dumps on ""poems that trot down the page one word to a line and go something like, oh I don't know, you know what I mean, the sun is gold and your moonhair shines, some shit like that, one word to a line, all small letters, really modern in nineteen twenty-five,"" but then insists on the god-like authority of prose to establish the reality of whatever it says and, having declared all such prose-on-paper to be Moebius strips (""there's nothing absolutely nothing nothing that I've told you that hasn't been made into made into some kind of a what's that thing you do with a strip of paper where you twist it and then you put the ends together?"") asserting by repeated phrases that the ""end"" of the novel is necessarily woven directly into the beginning. That, too, was modern in 1925.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1985
Publisher: North Point