Lunar Follies

Lunar Follies

by Gilbert Sorrentino

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Overview

“For decades, Gilbert Sorrentino has remained a unique figure in our literature. He reminds us that fiction lives because artists make it. . . . To the novel—everyone’s novel—Sorrentino brings honor, tradition and relentless passion.”—Don DeLillo

“Possessing both the grace of James Joyce and the snap and crackle of Tom Wolfe, [Sorrentino] is a must-read for those who fancy fiction served on wry.”— Booklist

“Far from being overly highbrow, Sorrentino manages to be thrillingly disorienting and, at the same time, quite accessible.”— BookSense.com

“Sorrentino has shown himself a perfect mimic of the information age, an era when all is revealed and no one can quite remember who appeared on the cover of last week’s People .”— The Washington Post

A boyhood friend of the late Hubert Selby, Jr., teacher of Jeffrey Eugenides and two-time PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, Gilbert Sorrentino is an elder statesman of American literature who continues to transgress artistic boundaries.

In Lunar Follies , a bitingly satiric, imaginative tour of gallery, museum and performance art exhibitions, Sorrentino skewers the pretensions of the contemporary art world and its flailing attempts at relevance in a society whose attentions have strayed to the immediacy of pop culture. With precise comedic timing and an eye toward lascivious detail, Sorrentino is the perfect guide through this deliciously absurd world.

Gilbert Sorrentino has published over 20 books of fiction and poetry, including the story collection, The Moon in Its Flight , and the recent novel, Little Casino , which was shortlisted for the 2003 PEN/Faulkner Award. After two decades on the faculty at Stanford University, he now lives in his native Brooklyn, New York.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781566891691
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Publication date: 04/01/2005
Pages: 145
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

A luminary of American literature, Gilbert Sorrentino was a boyhood friend of Hubert Selby, Jr., a confidant of William Carlos Williams, a two-time PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, and the recipient of a Lannan Literary Lifetime Achievement Award. He taught at Stanford for many years before returning to his native Brooklyn and published over thirty books before his death in 2006.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

ALPHONSUS

George Alphonsus, famed as the Supreme Master of Magic, is said to have had a hand in creating the illusion that has, quite successfully and convincingly, asserted itself as "art for our time." The question asked most frequently has been, "what of the millennium?" Or, on occasion, "what of the exciting millennium?" George creates the convincing illusion, which, most agree, silences the seasoned and cynical journalists, who are, of course, the framers of such questions as have to do with "art for our time." For instance: "Is baseball too slow for our ultra-busy, speeded-up, on-the-go age?" "Will the loathsome cockroach lead the way to a cure for breast cancer?" "Was John Kennedy Junior a closet queen?" "Do we have to die?" "How can we be happy in a bad job?" And "Is birth-control science the way to the Rapture?" But to the Supreme Master of Magic, anent his astonishing and artistic illusions (which, he insists, and strongly, on calling "The art of astonishing and artistic illusions"), they ask, e.g., "How does it feel, George?" Silence usually ensues, and so it's on to the snow-chains story; the heat-wave story; the story of the tough coach and his swell young protégé; the killer-hurricane (with puppy) story; the mudslide story and the people who will rebuild; the forest-fire story and the people who will rebuild; the flash-flood story and the people who will rebuild; the depraved priest story and the youths he abused every night for nine years; and, of course, the magnificent new stadium that will seat 150,000, cost nothing, make an entire city rich, and stamp out the cocaine trade as well, so that the little guy, if white, will win at least maybe story. And all the while, through rain and fog and the golden California sun that bakes the brain right through the jaunty baseball caps that are always the rage, George, the Supreme Master of Magic's, newest illusion is, yes, right this way, over here, yes, here you go, right by the spilled latte, yes: illusion dot com dot magicgeorge dot com you chumps.

ALPINE VALLEY

The place or space or venue is rife or blossoming with pictures or photographs or collages or photocollages of the famous avant-garde publisher's wife, the famous underground diva or fringe dancer or performance artist, whose most renowned and transgressive "happening" — as such events were termed in the sixties in all their rude and feverish innocence and glamour — "Cunnus Delicti," concluded with the artist slowly pulling a long, thin scroll of paper from her vagina. In between periods of "whirlwind creativity," as her husband smilingly notes, she likes to read the submissions that come in over the transom, as they occasionally say in publishing. This spousal remark is recorded, in its totality, amid the images that virtually surround one in the studio, amid a clash of vital forms. One novel was thought to be too long for its fragile premise, yet the choreographic instincts that inform the artist's "mind" are too present ever to permit her to define the word "premise." This has always been her way, so says her adoring husband, from behind his aromatically billowing briar. "She has an eye for the authentic," he is quoted as saying in a yellowing, brittle newspaper clipping, the words glowing with orange highlighter ink or solution or is it, perhaps, a kind of water color? Above this focal point, or "coign," as a dear old friend from "boardwalk days" has called it, this endearing remark, virtually palpable in its compassion for the real, the authentic, the unashamedly human, is a photograph of the artist, in her defining moment, pulling the paper scroll from her proud, naked vagina; and, just above the photograph, sharing the wall space that overlooks the massive worktable crammed, as always, with ideas for new dances, new performance ideas, new and startling contortions, just above it, stained, creased, covered with admirers' notes of congratulation and admiration, and, forebodingly, warning, like a stern aegis, or a harbinger of just what art can be, is the discolored scroll itself, assertive, defiant!

ALPS

Terrifying photographs, drawings, and poor collages of "Old Geordy Sime," one of his era's most famous pipers, alternate with miniature reproductions of the Alard Stradivarius, the installation, a word nicely borrowed from the Persian (like "peach"), creating a kind of frieze that dominates the small and warmly claustrophobic room. The title of this particular installation is "Welsh Harps," an oblique hommage to Sime. The artist's irrepressible sense of humor is everywhere apparent here. The portrayed women defend their actualities in no uncertain terms, here on the cutting edge. "They'll no longer take 'no' for an answer," would seem to be the essential rubric under which deft revolutions occur; and then there is "neon is their middle name," another call to arms. The word "cunt" may not, of course, be used, save in the correct, life-affirming way. Indian drums are scattered about, if drums can ever be "scattered." Yet scattered they joyously are, in the ineluctable ways of craft, and craft is all, when you get right down to it. It's time that artists who aren't pulling their own weight were given the bum's rush. "The Bum's Rush" is, fortuitously, the overall title of the whole exhibit. Over on the other wall is the interior profile of an English church organ, which completes the diorama — calling capitalism, once more, to account. Dioramas, as presented by certain fabled buildings at the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, were sublimely vulgar and made kitsch into the "art of our time." "At will's Musical Establishment" was first seen in the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, but was withheld from this particular show by those few who know. A wild twangling daily issues forth from all corners of the "space": at one, three, and five P.M. "Ring dem bells!" is the wonted cry from the poets who get five free tickets each day, starting at noon. (This is not the Director's doing!) Poets are likely to do just about anything for a buck, as they say, or for publication in Zing, Edelweiss Review, Insomnia News, Hurdygurdy, Blotto, and The Tribes. "Their hurts healed for a few dollars" or two contributor's copies. On Tuesdays, senior citizens are admitted at half-price, God love them.

ALTAI SCARP

Here are the stars of eternity, some dressed as imitation ladies. In attendance, two-inch engineers, cut out of cardboard, and curious in transparent socks. The sun, which shines on the tableau, is red, and, as usual, round, something like the dial of a watch. The stars, it should be noted, cluster about a red table upon which are displayed a wooden spool that apparently once held thread, a scatter of paper clips, a tin airplane, and a few old elastics, or, as they are usually called, "rubber bands." These items may, possibly, be glued to the table's surface. There is, too, an unappetizing dinner rather carelessly crowded onto a small area of the table, where it has grown stone cold. In a corner of the room, a trunk, leather and lined with leather, ready for the stars' vacation, is "gummed" all over with red stars and small photographs of tables and trunks; and next to it are its trays, removed so as to display their contents, nothing more than a number of hinged boxes, filled, almost to overflowing, with small discs of white cardboard edged with nickeled metal of some sort. Each disc has the same words carefully inscribed, in red ink, on one side: DARN, CONVEY, DISCOVER, SUCK; and on the other side: FASTER, TISSUE. It appears that the stars, or in any event those stars dressed as imitation ladies, refuse to examine or, for that matter, even glance at these "messages," and that they will continue to refuse to do so.

APPENNINES

A group, a line, actually, of determinedly, even aggressively unlifelike mannequins are arrayed, or lined up, against a ghastly backdrop of what is meant to be a Hawaiian sunset. The mannequins, male and female alike, have "breasts," and a disturbing, large sign, ANOTHER NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF BOURGEOIS GENDER ROLES, in magenta neon or something glowing, shines upon them. The mannequins appear to be dressed, or partially dressed — depending on how each mannequin is situated as a "radical construct"— as investment bankers, venture capitalists, bond traders, arbitragers, and cocksuckers, each "construct" attended by a "wife," "husband," "lover," or "partner," appropriately dressed for daily tasks and plain fun. Music plays continually on a loop (?), to the annoyance of the gallery visitors; and although this music is extremely bad, it must be noted that it is not precisely music, but world music, and its infirm quality a mocking comment on inverse canon formation. One mannequin, whose "breasts" are quite enormous, seems to have an equally enormous "erection" in its tight Tonetti briefs, although the flashing strobe lights that accompany the passionate if off-key strains of a "white-bread" version of a classic Venezuelan fanfanzanga, may well be responsible for a "bulge" that is really not there, but is an optical illusion. The noise in the gallery space is so loud as to be painful and disorienting, and this may account for the lewd, even depraved acts visited upon the mannequins by ironic and rebellious iconoclasts at virtually all hours. Such acts have come to be called, by their perpetrators and would-be perpetrators, "rudiments of gesture."

ARCHIMEDES

Piles of wet clothing, puddles of dirty, soapy water, and a tarnished crown of false, or fool's gold, set the tone for this installation, one which slowly and almost imperceptibly turns from the innocuous to the eerily disturbing, as the vast floor of the converted gymnasium, which serves as the gallery's exhibition space, accommodates, insistently and obsessively, more piles of clothing, more puddles of water, more cheap-jack crowns. It is only when the eye refuses to be mesmerized by neurotic uniformity and repetition that the floor space between these strangely iconic and wholly sterile elements of a useless formalism is seen to contain cluttered configurations of miniature, varicolored, metallic spheres, cylinders, fulcrums, circles, conoids, spheroids, ovoids, and ingeniously designed sand-reckoners. These familiar geometrical shapes function as footnotes or marginalia, of course. The floor is bathed in a cold, aqueous, silvery light, which has the uncanny effect of making these simple conjugations of things (and what is more "thinglike" than laundry, wet floors, "Coney Island" headgear?) into noble, if threatening, constructions. The entire installation suggests to the viewer willing to connect with its sublunary symbolism a world — our own world, perhaps — and the number of grains of sand in their trillions upon trillions that it would take to completely fill it. An extraordinarily compelling architecture of delights, this, by the Grupo Archimedes, rich with the unspoken and unrevealed.

Eureka Downtown, through June 15th

ARISTOTELES

Two copulative verbs, large, and by nature rough, converge upon a blushing noun, which tries, gamely, to hold its skirts down in the blustery wind blowing hard toward the famed copse of eucalyptus trees imported from the Pulitzer Bank, sadly fished out long, long ago, by fascists of foreign persuasions, mostly Norwegians, drunk, and foul with innocent-whale blubber. A dreadnought hovers nearby, fly agape, yet he seems, at first glance, to be slipping edgewise toward the empty booth in the diner. The diner is a perfect replica of an authentic copy reconstructed from the edges of the dreams of those who know what real rock-and-roll is, and, more importantly, what it used to be. The entire tableau, if one may be forgiven such an evangelistic word, seems to present a kind of "truth"— and, surely, the place cards have no reason to lie, to paraphrase the professor. In his latest book on seemingly inconsequential ("yet alarmingly labile," as he notes on more than one occasion) and neglected things, he plumbs the depths of the notably banal, as this word was understood in Victorian London, and comes to many conclusions about British comestibles. Be that as it may, the tableau keeps turning, twisting, changing, metamorphosing, and so on and so forth, over and over, in subtle homage to various geniuses of dramaturgy, post-Aristoteles, e.g.: Inigo Jones, Bob Jones, Bill Jones, Henry Jones, "Dem" Bones, August Strindberg, Irving Thalberg, Hank Greenberg, Mrs. Goldberg, "Bob" Altman, B. Altman, Bergdorf Goodman, "Noodles" Goodman, Aristotle, Richard Tottel, Dr. Fell, and others too numerous to name. But now the noun succumbs to the crass importunings of the verbs and their lusty rods hold sway! A card appears from out of a haze of bluish smoke and on the card is lettered, "Handlome il al handlome doel," yet another trope of the colonized mind. In the careless iconography of the streets, this phrase may mean that [she] is in the process "of getting [her] ashes hauled." There is, finally, a somewhat banjaxed and vafunculed series of half-hearted alarums before Bottom enters and puts out the lights, much to the annoyance of the person hired to perform this act. This, too, is to be considered part of the shifting, flexible, ceaselessly variegated piece. "So we beat off," a volunteer demigod chuckles softly, as he leans on the windowsill to gaze at the traffic far below in the gathering summer dusk, headlights gleaming off the wet, shining streets, reading his index card with admirable precision and a degree of panache, even.

*The phrase, "lusty rods," may be added to the performance piece at the discretion of those who have the money, as always; but it should be made clear that the phrase is being employed with the understanding that it is ideally understood as an unconscious sexual reference, like "candy," "jelly jelly," "pussyfoot," or "bingo."

CARPATHIANS

Most serious gallery-goers of the seventies pretend to remember Moss Kuth, one of the earliest practitioners — some would say the avatar — of Exoconceptualism. This, his first exhibition in almost fifteen years, gathers well-known, to some revered, devices, and what the artist calls "plannings," those strangely occulted, iconoclastic conglomerates that heralded the end of the stasis imposed upon the art of the fifties and sixties by market-corrupted confections of pop art, op art, numero art, subway art, and the moribund rigidities of a humorless politico-expressionism. There are included, too, some recent, surprisingly sunny (though no less pointed) constructions. Moss and his wife, Magda, have been living quietly in their small farmhouse in Provence, venturing only as far as Paris once or twice a year to stock up on books, visit the galleries, and spend a convivial evening or two with such old ghosts as Matisse, Picasso, and Gris, "quarreling," as Magda smilingly puts it, "the night away." In the large and breathtaking photo by Dan Ray that dominates the gallery's south wall, Moss, Magda, and their Irish wolfhound, Lummox, are revealed, all three dressed in hip, severe black, amid the prize-winning roses that have endeared Magda to the world of horticulture, as that word is grotesquely understood in the very seat of Gallic culture. The show itself is simple, austere, elegant: a collection of letters from friends and enemies; wide-ranging commentary — favorable, vicious, perceptive, stupid, toadying — on certain passages in the letters, from over twenty years' worth of Kuthian studies and criticism; the criticism, in full, itself; Kuth's remarks on the studies, the criticism, and the commentary on the commentary on the letters; a jumbled display of Kuth's tattered notebooks, containing alternative commentary on the commentary on the letters; a blank notebook, its pages fanned out, provocatively perched upon a ream of cheap white paper; and a small black-and-white snapshot of Magda, playfully sucking Moss off under the pines at Yaddo, often called "the Yaddo pines." Located at the extreme edges of the display are letters from both Kuth and Magda to each other, stained with what appears to be dog shit, agreeing with all the negative commentary on Kuth's work, and wholly composed in crude, ungrammatical, trite, and shrewdly misspelled English, an English, as Magda has impishly noted, "that is hours all own."

CATHARINA

High upon a wall, quite near the ceiling, a large thing, colored a strangely glowing puce, abuts a frosty moon. Splinters descend, splinters of ice, falling on other things below; below, that is to say, the frosty moon's "mirror image" (although this notion has long been subject to critical attack, mostly labile in nature), the thunder moon. The latter moon leans against a lavender thing. Other vaguely organic elements crowd about, in the best possible way. Piled in an attractive heap down by the entrance to the pongee grouping, flanked, as tradition demands, by metallic pillars crafted in homage to Catharina Duchesse, the old Caliph's favorite filly, are variously sized, smoldering examples of perfectly designed representations of a grass moon, egg moon, planting moon, milk moon, rose moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, hay moon, green corn moon, grain moon, fruit moon, hunger's moon, and a beaver moon, disguised as a spruce moon, in honor of the Yuletide season. Above this gleaming jumble of dazzling color and sparkling surface hangs the always reliable harvest moon, which shines on, shines on. In a revealing photograph of the old Hotel Astor, things appear to have got somewhat out of hand. The hotel band, Tab Jazzetti and His Melodists, seems to be trying to "swing," or so it would seem from close observation of the musicians' divers postures. Their music stands mysteriously bear the initials OO, said initials being intertwined and dusted with mica so as to glitter like the frosty moon. It's best when the sun strikes the whole dance floor, so they say, with a kind of rousing BANG, although incandescent lighting will do in a pinch, that is, on a dark day. Fluorescent lights, however, really mess things up rather badly. "Might as well not be here at all with the moons looking like that," some have been overheard to say from the polished floor. And many of them were quite respectably dressed, and, it is rumored, know all the best restaurants. Wherein, sad to say, the fucking morons always order the wrong things.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Lunar Follies"
by .
Copyright © 2005 Gilbert Sorrentino.
Excerpted by permission of COFFEE HOUSE PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Alphonsus,
Alpine Valley,
Alps,
Altai Scarp,
Appennines,
Archimedes,
Aristoteles,
Carpathians,
Catharina,
Caucasus Mountains,
Clavius,
Cleomedes,
Copernicus,
Cordillera Mountains,
Eastern Sea,
Eratosthenes,
Fra Mauro,
Gassendi,
Grimaldi,
Humboldt,
Hyginus Rille,
J. Herschel,
Joliot-Curie,
Jules Verne,
Jura Mountains,
Lake of Dreams,
Langrenus,
Longomontanus,
Moscow Sea,
Neper,
Ocean of Storms,
Petavius,
Plato,
Posidonius,
Ptolemaeus,
Purbach,
Pythagoras,
Riccioli,
Rook Mountains,
Sea of Clouds,
Sea of Cold,
Sea of Crises,
Sea of Fertility,
Sea of Moisture,
Sea of Nectar,
Sea of Rains,
Sea of Serenity,
Sea of Tranquillity,
Straight Wall,
Theophilus,
Tsiolkovsky,
Tycho,
Walther,

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