Gilbert Sorrentino – Steelwork (1970)


“… [Gilbert] Sorrentino would eventually begin publishing his own work, both poetry and fiction. Pantheon published his second novel (and fifth book), Steelwork, in 1970. The cover of the first edition showed a stylized image of the street signs at the intersection of 68th Street and Fourth Avenue, the locus of Sorrentino’s Bay Ridge, which usually doesn’t extend farther than Senator to 72nd streets, Third to Fifth avenues. It’s confined in its own way, like Selby’s. (Gerald Howard, in a 2011 article in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, identified at least one address where Sorrentino grew up, between Fourth and Fifth avenues on Senator Street, a block between 67th and 68th streets named for Henry C. Murphy, the 19th-century Brooklyn mayor and state senator who once lived at the street’s west end, on an estate that’s now Owl’s Head Park.) Steelwork’s main character, basically, is Bay Ridge — or at least Sorrentino’s corner of it. In dozens of short chapters, set from 1935 to 1951, he sketches out its denizens, people of all kinds — kids, drunks, workers, vets — most of whom share a commonality with Last Exit’s lowlives: they’re addicted to alcohol and tremendously sexually frustrated, fantasizing at home, at school, or on the corners about neighborhood girls, sometimes even cruising for men in the local parks. Many of these characters would reappear in later books. Sorrentino would publish 18 novels, a story collection and a novella — plus eight volumes of poetry and another of criticism — repeatedly returning to the neighborhood. …”
Gilbert Sorrentino: The Lost Laureate of Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Rail: Remembering Gilbert Sorrentino
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Floating Bear #30   Gilbert Sorrentino, “Prose of Our Time” (1964)

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