An Introduction to Novelist Gilbert Sorrentino’s Bay Ridge


“Bay Ridge is a neighborhood in the southwestern corner of Brooklyn. Unless you’re from Bay Ridge, or maybe the next neighborhood over, you probably don’t know much about it, or even that it exists; it’s avoided the coolification that has overtaken so much of the rest of the borough in the last twenty or thirty years, because it’s far enough from Manhattan to have avoided gentrification and retain its unique character, even while it’s undergone some dramatic demographic changes. Historically, it has the distinction of being founded by artists, a cohort of 50 engravers and lithographers and stained-glass masters who settled in what was then the pastoral, rural outskirts of the City of Brooklyn. But that has little to do with Gilbert Sorrentino’s Bay Ridge. By the time Gil was born, in 1929, Bay Ridge wasn’t the countryside. … Anyone who’s read Steelwork or Crystal Vision or Red the Fiend or Little Casino or A Strange Commonplace or The Abyss of Human Illusion knows Gil’s Bay Ridge was no artists’ colony. The streets in his Brooklyn books are home to an insular neighborhood-culture of poolrooms, taverns and candystores, populated by the unhappily married and the miserably unattached, vets and laborers and middle managers, all addicted to alcohol, all sexually frustrated—or, rather, sexually frenzied—people whom Sorrentino succinctly describes in A Strange Commonplace as ‘tough, flexible and distrustful of crude irony.’ This is how the neighborhood has existed for almost the last 100 years: a little piece of Staten Island in Brooklyn, unpretentious, old-fashioned, and middle-class, even though it’s also home to many multimillion-dollar mansions, a short walk from Sorrentino’s corner of the neighborhood though seemingly a city away. … That said, the neighborhood has accidentally produced or housed a couple of artists over the years: C. W. Coolidge, who painted the famous canvases of dogs playing poker, raised his family there for 20 years before decamping for Staten Island. And Emmett Grogan, founder of the Diggers and author of the quasi-memoir cult classic Ringolevio, at least used to visit his parents here grew up here, though he would never admit it. …”
Hey Ridge
Hey Ridge: Where Did Bay Ridge’s Best Novelist Live?
Gilbert Sorrentino: The Lost Laureate of Brooklyn
W – Gilbert Sorrentino
W – Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
amazon: Gilbert Sorrentino

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