JUDY KRAVIS

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Thursday, 15 July 2021

Everyone is asleep in the Splendide-Hôtel

I have read chapters of Aberration by Starlight by Gilbert Sorrrentino for the last week or more of nights, trying to find my way—through the night and the book. I used to read to students bits of his Splendide-Hôtel, his Rimbaud-inspired alphabet,  to loosen their reading expectations.

Et le Splendide-Hôtel fut bâti dans le chaos de glaces et de nuit du pôle.

He inhabits the Splendide-Hôtel from A to Z, and that suits me better than the novel, whose ill-digested history and rampant male-world-view are hard to bear, in the middle of the night or at any other time. 

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.

Sorrrentino is a better poet than he is a story-teller. He is better with the fragment than when he tries to pack his past into chapters. His persistent imagining, in  Aberration by Starlight of his mother's sexual encounter with one so-called Tom Thebus is such a mess of lurid imagination you're left numb, wondering why he has to say all this. 

Sorrentino's alphabet, on the other hand, is free-form and compelling:

N stands for No, the one word that God would utter did He deign to speak. It is the controlling factor of all religion, no matter its protestations of optimism and joy: rightly so. Cleave to the strict beliefs of a fumbling creed or get out of it, get out of it! No, they stay, no. Say it along with them and those who believe in reform—happy men! I believe in the obfuscation of the celebration of God's mysteries, let it remain in Latin, let it be changed to Greek for that matter. It is the business of religion to conceal.

The hollow interior of O could be anything.

Sitting on a stone quay facing the Gulf of Mexico, many years ago I wrote an entire novel in my mind, its title, Blue Ray. It was, as I remember, a Christmas morning, warm and sunny, the water a bright blue, blue sky. It was, of course, about a young man alone in a Texas Gulf town.

By the time we get to Z:

Everyone is asleep in the Splendide-Hôtel

The dancing is over and we are tired.  


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