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Gilbert Sorrentino Biography

(1929–2006), The Darkness Surrounds Us, Black and White, The Sky Changes, Steelwork

American novelist and poet, born in Brooklyn, educated at Brooklyn College. Sorrentino lived in New York City all his life and his prose and poetry are saturated with the idioms and rhythms of urban life. His first volume of poetry, The Darkness Surrounds Us (1960), which shows the influence of Black Mountain poets, was followed by a second volume, Black and White (1964). Sorrentino's first novel, The Sky Changes (1966), largely autobiographical in nature, marks the beginning of his increasing preoccupation with prose fiction. Steelwork (1970), a series of ‘snapshots’ of Brooklyn life between 1935 and 1951, reveals subtle shifts in theme and mood. Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things (1971) explores the literary and artistic world of New York in the late 1930s and 1940s, orchestrated through the voices of eight characters. Splendide-Hotel (1973) follows the essentially episodic structure of his earlier fiction in employing twenty-six sections (titled with the letters of the alphabet) which, collectively, form a kind of homage to the French poet Rimbaud but seen through the language and idiom of William Carlos Williams. White Sail (1977) marks a return to a more lyrical poetic voice. His novel Mulligan Stew (1979), with its philosophical play on the ontology both of art and of characters (some of whom are ‘borrowed’ from other authors), is regarded as one of the most important works of American fictional post-modernism. Selected Poems, 1958–1980 appeared in 1981, and Something Said: Essays in 1984. Later works include Under the Shadow (1991), Aberration of Starlight (1993), and Red the Fiend (1995).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lemn Sissay Biography to Southwold Suffolk