Jeffrey Frank Recommends

“By a miracle of publishing, Gilbert Sorrentino’s 1971 novel, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things (a deeply cynical look at the Manhattan art world of mid-century) is available, barely, and it hasn’t lost a bit of its nasty comic brilliance. Begin, for instance, with the beginning: “What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the top of her stockings? It is an old story.” Sorrentino, who died not long ago, was always defiant, hugely incorrect, and unfailingly original; his Mulligan Stew remains a mildly insane and exhilarating satire about publishing (and literature itself), and his more recent Little Casino is a “deck” of fifty-two little linked stories, most of them terrific. But nothing was quite like Imaginative Qualities, which reads, still, as if it might have been written today or, perhaps, tomorrow.”

Jeffrey Frank is the author of four novels, most recently Trudy Hopedale, and co-author, with his wife Diana, of The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Translation From the Danish. He lives in New York, where he is a senior editor at The New Yorker.