Sorrentino is clearly enjoying himself here, at play in the formal fields of his imagination, but what elevates this to more than mere textual necromancy and verbal prestidigitation, is that feeling, that je ne sais quoi particular to Sorrentino at his best, where amid truly hilarious scenes of near-or-total-absurdity (you will laugh on every page of this book), a reader is suddenly struck with something definitely approaching sadness, or nostalgia, or regret- the best image I can come up with to reflect this Sorrentino-feeling is... Sorrentino at his best (and Crystal Vision is among his best) understands this so well, and puts into his work layers and layers of story, stories on stories, stories intruding on stories, stories hijacked by stories, stories having dialogues with stories, and the characters in those stories are as bewildered, amused, angry, regretful, forsaken, alone, and hopeful as we ourselves are in our own lives... the fictional limbo that makes up this book, of course, is the fictional limbo of life, the ever-retreating present perfect tense which is always past and always approaching.
With what tingling twinges of agonic pain, poring with sedulousness over Sorrentino's acmeic prose, I, the epitome of callowness; tried to copy it! I absolutely acknowldgeate Gil Sorrentino's comic masterliniousness. "A soupçon of elegantia, not a mere slice of life, but an entire reeking and steaming slab of same." I laughed throughout the reading of it, yet I laughed with moistened eyes because its "bone-freezing and tooth-shattering poignance" would pulverize your "heart to a telcumish powdery residue." ( Sorry, I can't help using the Arab's expressions!) Sorrentino could be writing about his own Brooklyn neighbourhood for all I know, because the stories here have that depth of feeling & truth that comes from life itself, of characters with lost dreams, lost innocence, of those who were left behind. Only "the creamy cream of the (GR) neighborhood should partake in" Gil Sorrentino's writings.
This outstanding novel presents 78 vignettes about a cast of characters in a 1940s Brooklyn neighbourhood. Chapters 1-22 correspond to the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana, with the remaining fifty-six covering the four suits of the Lesser Arcana Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles moving within each suit through King to Ace. In each vignette, a story is told (or attempted) by a recurring character: The Arab, Professor Kooba, Ritchie, The Magician, Big Duck, Doc Friday or Irish Billy. The characters are gathered in a Brooklyn candystore, telling stories illuminated by the Tarot. Sorrentino melds the experimental devices literary parodies, nagging self-comment, the process of writing and representation of his novel Mulligan Stew with his earlier realist stories about Brooklyn life, such as Steelwork or Aberration of Starlight.
Unlike most devices to which most authors become enslaved to, and ultimately make the book as tedious as possible to read (cf. the Autograph Man (which I've tried reading about 3 times now)), the book doesn't suffer from it.
So this book (not a novel, but not exactly short stories either -- they share a setting and time period and a large cast of characters) caused me to learn a lot more about Tarot cards, and to question my understanding and interpretation of literature/fiction.
Specific characters are not even memorable, but the dialogue as a whole is totally unique, a pleasure to read, and often LOL funny.