Archive for January, 2015

1.17 / 2.20

January 30, 2015

“Another Small Adventure”
Book 1, chapter 17; Book 2, chapter 20


1.17 Woman, her husband, “writer bastard” (all unnamed)

2.20 woman (Jenny), her boss (Ms. Neumiller), “Poppa” (her father? a man who scares her?) Jenny’s boyfriend (Warren)

General Subject/ Plot

1.17: A woman, who had been slipped a drug and raped, is found by her husband.

2.20: A woman drinks herself senseless when she gets home from work.


1.17 tiled bathroom floor, white and black, hat and scarf, no underwear, writer, vomiting

2.20 vomiting, clothes (dark suit, white blouse, floral pin), “spray” [1st brothers], figurine of lioness with lamb, alcohol, cigarette, wet clothes, soiling oneself,


All four of the small adventures have women as their protagonists and all four have something dingy about them: in SA1 a married woman feels drawn to be with strange men (seems to want to be soiled?); in SA2 a divorced woman in a kind of glum affair with a married man (the towel); in ASA1 a married woman who has been drugged and raped; in ASA2 a single woman in a dire situation (literally soiling herself.)

The idea that “soiled-ness” (being, feeling dirty) occurs near areas of cleanliness — the tiles in the bathroom in ASA1 are clean, the rather composed atmosphere of the woman who’s soiled herself in ASA2,–the building that is so run down in such a nice part of town (SA1).]

In ASA1, a complex look at the mindset of the victimized woman: yes, she did have it as a thought to get back at her husband by being with another man, but it would have remained a thought if she hadn’t been drugged –and her first thought, on coming out of it, is fear that her husband will find out.

(Reminds of the woman being “drugged” –smoking hash– in the first “On the Roof”. On that occasion, the drug consumption had been consensual but not the sex. In this case the drug made her “consensual” (unable to resist.))

SA1 and SA2 seem to center on “sluttishness”: in the first, the woman seems to take it upon herself, to make herself available to men who are not her husband and are not clean; in the second the woman, having an affair with a married man, recoils from the idea that she has become a slut, which is to be like the woman who broke up her own family.

In SA1 and SA2 and first “On the Roof” sexual entry from rear…. On my first reading of tghe second “Another Small Adventure” I assumed “Poppa” to be a nefarious, maybe pimp-like character. I am now more of the view that he is Jenny’s actual father and that he is responsible for her black lacquered table and bronze figuring and maybe office job.

1.16 / 2.9

January 30, 2015

“A Small Adventure”
Book 1, chapter 16; Book 2, chapter 9


1.16 Married Woman (unnamed), Young black man (unnamed), man with red hair

2.9 A mother (dottie) her boy (unnamed) her ex-husband (Al) the woman he ran off with (estelle) the man daughter had an affair and his wife (unnamed)

General Subject/ Plot

1.16: married woman, apparently thrill seeking, has sex with two iffy guys.

2.9: a single mother, whose husband ran off with another woman, has a grim affair with another man’s husband.


1.16 elevator, red hair, black guy, clothing (suit, skirt), dirtiness, binder (writing?), party

2.9 cigarettes, mother, alcohol, infidelity, towel, linoleum, unhappy


See “Another Small Adventure.”

1.15/ 2.24

January 29, 2015

Book 1, chapter 15; Book 2, chapter 24


1.15 Two brothers (Ray and Warren, Warren the eldest), Warren’s beautiful daughter (name “forgotten”), Ray’s Daughter, Ray’s Son (Warren), their wives (unnamed).

2.24 two brothers (Ray and Warren) and their wives (unnamed).

General Subject/ Plot

1.15: Two brothers share everything but their relationship sours and they grow apart. It’s never stated what goes wrong with their relationship.

2.24: two brothers conduct affairs with each other’s wives.


1.15 Ray, Warren, beautiful girl, girl dead at 23 (here a car crash), homburg, lucky strikes, dentist, movies (Cagney et al.) credit investigator,

2.24 Rockefeller Center, cigarettes, infidelity, alcohol, “Prisoner of Love”, three deuces, purple tie, jesus, happy, party


The first “Brothers” strongly correlated with the second “A Familiar Woman” — Strawberry Blond, dentistry, Oldsmar Florida. It deals with two brothers gradually growing apart. They both have Claire-like daughters, one having died at twenty-three, the other notable for her beauty and premature death. Something dark also hangs over one of these Claire-like daughters, which causes the separation. One guesses it is incest.

The second “Brothers” tells a reverse story of two brothers growing closer together through cheating on each other’s wives, and somewhat invokes the second “Pair of Deuces” both through the mention of “Three Deuces” and the similar situation of two married couples changing partners.

The first is movie-related while the second is song/ music related…. (On the roof, holiday season, three deuces, purple tie, jesus, happy, twenty-five years ago, Rockefeller Center, “Charms“?)… Is there any reason to believe these are not the same Ray and Warren in the two chapters? [There are a couple details that make it unlikely: that the brothers of the first married late, that the given occupations of the two sets of brothers don’t correspond)… What to make of the fact, in the first, that (1) both Ray and Warren have “Claire-like” daughters (one for being exceptionally beautiful and the other for having died at age twenty-three) and that Ray’s son is named Warren? There almost seems a kind of ratio at work… Haven’t seen Strawberry Blond but a look at the plot summary suggests a parallel with these chapters.

1.14/ 2.19

January 28, 2015

“Rockefeller Center”
Book 1, chapter 14; Book 2, chapter 19


1.14 a young man (unnamed) and his date (also unnamed), a wife mentioned who is also unnamed.

2.19 older man (unnamed), older woman (unnamed), narrator (unnamed)

General Subject/ Plot

1.14: A young man, in the throes of an indefinite romantic sentiment, histrionically pledges to meet the girl he’s with at Rockefeller center in five years. (He keeps this pledge but of course she doesn’t.)

2.19: the narrator (the same narrator?) gives numerous accounts of a story about a man he knows losing his hat and encountering or thinking he has encountered a woman he carried a torch for for many years.


1.14 movie, alcohol, boring party, “on the roof” , Saroyan (literature) (*), clothing (black velour dress), new year’s, rockefeller center.

2.19 grey homburg, rockefeller center, fifth avenue, sixth avenue, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, clothing (camel’s hair polo coat), husband leaving wife for secretary, false high blown language/ Reader’s Digest, person aged seventeen (like in 1.14) “five years ago” like in (1.14)


William Saroyangrosgrain edge.. I think Sorrentino himself would have been 19 in Jan 1949….

In the first episode a young man, despite knowing how stupid it is and how it doesn’t work like this, wants his love to be like love in the movies. This occurs at Rockefeller center.

In the second, Rockefeller Center is allegedly the location of another romantic movie-like episode: a old man’s hat blown off his head lands at the feet of a woman who might be the same woman he loved as a youth.

In the second, the old man thinks he’s seventeen again which is the age of the woman in the first.

In the second, the old woman’s husband left her five years ago, which is the time, in the first, after which the young man and woman are to reunite.

If, in the second “Rockefeller Center” the woman is now 55 (“55 or so years”) and they knew each other thirty-five years ago, then she was nineteen at that time, and the man seventeen; so there is an inversion at work the first “Rockefeller Center” where the man was nineteen and the woman seventeen.

The first is a third person omniscient account, the second is a first person account of something he himself had been told, maybe repeatedly, maybe a couple of these.

The “boring party” of the first bringing the second “on the roof” to mind.

The “camel-haired coat” of the woman of the second suggesting a real prosperity as opposed to the assumed one suggested by the homburg of the man in the second.

1.13 / 2.2

January 27, 2015

Book 1, chapter 13; Book 2, chapter 2


1.13 Male narrator (unnamed), his first wife (only mentioned, unnamed), a friend of hers (maybe named Claire but probably not), Claire’s Uncle Ray.

2.2 Claire (apparently having a dream?), her doctor (Doctor Napoleon), her entertainment coordinator (a young black man, Ferlon Gervette)

General Subject/ Plot

1.13: narrator reflects on a woman named Claire he’d had somewhat to do with a long while ago: she was very beautiful; died young of Ovarian cancer; and at the age of twelve had had “romances” with her father and father’s brother.

2.2: A woman has a surreal encounter at her doctor’s office… has to be a dream but is not identified as such.


1.13 Helen of Troy, “magic”, Claire, disease, brothers, Irene Dunne, Sunset Park, abortion, World Telegram, incest, numbers 12 & 23,

2.2 Memoires, Writer, Napoleon, Claire, Myeloma, nurses, Los Angeles, slip,


Mention of Helen in the first Claire points us to the first “Lovers” (where Marlowe’s description of her in Doctor Faustus is mentioned) but this proves to be a misdirection, as the lover of Claire/ Clara in the first “Lovers” is still married; the narrator of the first “Claire” is divorced.

A similar “misdirection” occurs at the end of the first “Claire”: all that we have heard about the beauty of Claire and the incestuous relationship she was coerced into and which produced a baby that she drowned in the sink in fact involved someone with a different name.

Both chapters involve the mortality of Claire as was seen in the first “Success.” In the first “Claire” (the woman initially identified as such) dies very young of ovarian cancer. In the second “Claire”, she has multiple myeloma and is chided by her doctor for smoking.

The second “Claire” could easily be an account of a dream of the Claire of the first “Success” — the dream of one jilted by a memoirist who moves to Los Angeles after she’s become terminally ill, maybe from chainsmoking.)

The first seems to be a man recounting a memory, the second seems to be the dream of a woman….

The second Claire suggests a Highschool romance like the first “In Dreams.” (In that chapter, a man has a dream of his wife, who may actually be a girl he knew in highschool.)

The first “In Dreams” is also like the first “Claire” in its ambiguity about names (the dreamer, named Charles probably, gives his name as Claire.)

The first Claire’s mention of “magic”… (like the magical dress of the second “Diner”).

1.12 / 2.1

January 26, 2015

“Happy Days”
Book 1, chapter 12; Book 2, chapter 1


1.12 a writer (unnamed), the guys on the corner by the candy store (unnamed)

2.1 Maureen, her boss and lover Blackie (aka Pierre), Blackie’s wife Janet, their daughter, Clara.

General Subject/ Plot

1.12: the biography of a writer, who seeks to downplay his privilege and accentuate his independence and wildness.

2.1: Long contemplated, Man finally leaves wife to be with mistress, after altercation involving book of matches and scarf.


1.12 Idiom, film/ movies, candy store, Napoleon, guys on the corner, alcohol, writer, John Cusack

2.1 Infidelity, Jesus, Saturday, silk scarf, B. Altman’s (NYC), “Parisian Casino”/ Pierre, coffee,


The first “Happy Days” strongly corresponds to the second “Movies”, both being stories of a writer’s success.

In the former, the story is the sort that Horatio Alger tale which could occur only in movies; the latter involves a writer distorting the image of himself to make it more marketable — to make it seem more Horatio Alger-like.

He seems to want to make his life something movie-like, something made to appear in the movies.

Like some other chapters, the first “Happy Days” is concerned with its language (“in the parlance of…” “another quaint locution”), its mention of incest suggests the second “Born Again”, its mention of the Times, suggests the Daily News of the first “In the Diner”.

In the second “Happy Days” more of the story of the hat and scarf is filled out: the hat (probably a homburg) indicate the man’s pretension about his worth, which he can’t bear to have insulted or laughed at; the scarf indicates the presence of “another woman.”

Don’t have much of an idea as to why either of these is called Happy Days [Happy Days disambiguation]. What resonates with me most is the TV show by that name, which I recall having featured a Diner — “Al’s” –and a red-head “Ralph the Malph”. Various chapters mention happiness or unhappiness, for instance in the first “In the Bedroom” –“happy as a clam.”

Ad endum, Second Happy Days. — Pierre was such a good sport about everyone calling him Blackie, but why would have minded this? Was he black (another Napoleon type figure)? Was there something else black about him?

–The silk scarf Pierre can’t find strongly suggests the first In the bedroom in which the unnamed cheated on wife has accidentally found her husband’s scarf tucked among her underware (plausible that a silk scarf would be tucked among a woman’s silk or silk like undergarments, and doubly suggestive of offensive the scarf might be to her.

–Related to that, it’s interesting that the discussion, between Pierre and Maureen, about the location of his scarf, comes up as he’s reaching at her underpants (which, however, she’s wearing — which are not in her drawer). It’s these sorts of contrasts (underwear being reach for by a lover, underwear being searched through in a drawer) that I believe Sorrentinno wants to focus on, and not questions like the one raised in the following note, the essence of which is, is a single, coherent narrative told in this book?

–Is the Janet of the second Happy Days the unnamed cheated on wife of the first In The Bedroom? One can neither confirm or deny it. There are discrepancies certainly: in Happy Days (2) the man leaves the woman in In The Bedroom (1) the woman leaves the man. Still, the subjective third person narration always makes us wonder if two characters may have had conflicting interpretations of the same experience.

— Friday night and Saturday morning. For Blackie/ Pierre, the former indicates a moment of finality and decision, the latter, that a mistake may have been made. (We are elsewhere to think of Saturdays as being child visitation days for divorced fathers.)

1.11 / 2.23

January 26, 2015

“In the Diner”
Book 1, chapter 11; Book 2, chapter 23


1.11 three hip young men (two unnamed, one “Ray”), a 53-year old waitress (unnamed)

2.23 a man remembering/ imagining (unnamed), an unnamed mother, father and child.

General Subject/ Plot

1.11: three young men treat someone of lower social standing insultingly, after which one of them is suddenly shot.

2.23: A man at a diner doesn’t know whether he’s remembering or imagining this: a child’s desolation at the unraveling of his parent’s marriage (?).


1.11 Daily News, Jesus/ Jesus Christ, diner, pink polyester uniform, white shoes, death by shooting.

2.23 Snow, “magical dress”, cheese danish (versus cheese cake of second In Dreams), navy blue overcoat, white scarf with polka dots, grey fedora, Worcestershire sauce, baloney sandwich.


We’re told, in a previous chapter, that Claire’s brother was shot outside a diner.

In the second “In Dreams”, where a diner is dreamt of, all three of the toughs are shot, not just the one.

In the second “In Dreams” one of the deadbeats displays a ketchup bottle through his pants. There is a ketchup bottle beside the Worcestershire sauce in the second “In the Diner”.

The second “In The Diner” involves questions of identity, as for instance, occurs in the first “Movies” (A person trying to establish something about the past becomes lost in selves, versions of selves.)

The magic dress in the second “In the Diner” brings to mind the one we just read, the first “A Familiar Woman”, a key to what is meant there perhaps.

The question arises, while reading A Strange Commonplace, to what extent is this autobiographical; it will seem that the second “In The Diner” also sort of asks that?

Maybe to be wondered about, how the two “In The Diners” relate to the second “In Dreams”. (For one thing, “In Dreams” seems an extreme version of the first in the diner: instead of a waitress being insulted she is raped and sodomized, and instead of one of those who insulted her getting killed, all three of them are.)

In the last few sentences of the second “In the Diner” the existence of the protagonist seems to toggle between that of a boy in the kitchen and that of a man in the diner –the familiar comforting personal space (boyhood, the mother, the kitchen, the past) with the hard impersonal space of the present, the diner, the father.

1.10 / 2.15

January 23, 2015

“A Familiar Woman”
Book 1, chapter 10; Book 2, chapter 15


1.10 a man and his wife or girlfriend, both unnamed.

2.15 Dentist/ Rapist (Ralph Greenleaf) his first patient victim (Claire Page) his second (another Claire, no last name), his wife (Inez) her lover (Marty)

General Subject/ Plot

1.10: a man confronts likenesses of the significant lady of his life outside of their shared home.

2.15: a dentist gets caught taking advantage of a patient under sedation, years later he finds himself in the same situation with a very similar woman.


1.10 Clothing (gabardine, velvet, suede, shorts, flowered dress), alcohol, a literary work (Pierre in another one, the first In Dreams?).

2.15 Claire (two of them both widows both in “forties”), Greenleaf, rape, a nurse, widow, strawberry blond, infidelity, unhappy, murderous thoughts (like the first On the Roof)


The Sacred Fount. “Coincidence, as life proves over and over again, is so routine as to beggar comment.” (A statement from the 2nd…. Although it doesn’t go with the opening Williams quote, is there a sense in which coincidence, of which the book is replete of instances, is the “strange commonplace” referred to in the the book’s title? Also: are we to look on the fact that both Ralph the dentist and Bill the salesperson of the year have the last name Greenleaf as a coincidence or something else? In what sense is it a coincidence, if it is a coincidence? Would it be coicidental if a book had several character sharing the same name, and having similar life experience, which in fact had nothing to do with each other?)

The first of these is especially puzzling. Does the man have one vision of his lady when he’s in her physical presence and another when he’s outside of it? What does the woman’s clothing have to do with this vision? (It does seem that in a Strange Commonplace identity can be closely wrapped up in what one wears. One can be vulnerable, in undergarments, or invulnerable, in a suit, for instance. To change clothes is to change who one is.)

In the second, it’s notable that there are actually two sets of familiar women, the two Claire’s as well as the two nurses. Should maybe be considered how these mirror each other.

After the second, the next three stories in the second book all deal with rape (though in “The Jungle” it’s more a suggestion.) Notable — the first “On The Roof” precedes the first “A Familiar Woman” while the second “On The Roof” preceds the second “A Familiar Woman.”

1.9 / 2.16

January 22, 2015

“On the Roof”
Book 1, chapter 9; Book 2, chapter 16


1.9 Male Protagonist, senior credit investigator (unnamed), his wife (Estelle), her deadbeat friends (unnamed), but one of them a redhead.

2.16 Female protagonist (Janet), her husband (Al), black guy and red-headed who rape Janet (unnamed)

General Subject/ Plot

1.9: a professional man comes home to find his wife hanging out with her loathesome childhood friends on the roof.

2.16: a woman joins some men on a roof to smoke hash and they rape her.


1.9 deadbeats, redhead, oxford grey suit and homburg (for which he’s laughed at, like first in the bedroom), other clothing, Jesus, alcohol, infidelity –the woman’s)

2.16 redhead, black professional, alcohol, rape, women’s undergarments (the bra in first ‘in dreams’), “Just for a Thrill,” Jesus, rain, apartment


In the first, a husabnd exits the cupola of the roof to find his wife in a compromising situation –in which she is complicit– with her deadbeat friends; in the second, a different husband exits the cupola on the roof soon to find his wife has been brutally raped and sodomized (not complicit).

This follows a pattern established by the preceding “In Dreams”: in the first “In Dreams” the wife’s promiscuousness exposes the husband to some awkardness and uncertainty; in the second “In Dreams”, a woman is brutally sodomized and raped.

[To state it otherwise: The first and second “On the Roof” repeat a pattern of the first and second “In Dreams” — in the first of each the woman is presented as a sort of liability to the man/ husband, because of her sexual availability; in the second of each, the woman is presented as sexually vulnerable, a victim.]

In the first “On The Roof” the wife seems to enjoy a party, which gets her in trouble with the husband. In the second, she doesn’t enjoy at all the party that her husband is so into himself, and this is what gets her in trouble.

In the first “On The Roof” like the second “In The Bedroom”, the wife laughs at the pretensions implied by the husband donning a homburg.

Each features a redhead, each refers to the banking industry, each has a husband stepping through the door of the cupola…

In general, it’s notable how much these short vignettes suggest about the life histories of their characters, and how the suggested life histories of one chapter will mingle with and refer to the suggested life histories of another.

1.8 / 2.11

January 20, 2015

“In Dreams”
Book 1, chapter 8; Book 2, chapter 11


1.8 Man (whose dream this is) (Charles? Claire?), woman who could be his wife, and a boy. Young black professional. Three jewish men in store, one a red head. Prostitute that looks like Meryl Streep.

2.11 Man (whose dream this is), a waitress of a diner and three wild youths (eating there), an old man (eating there), other staff of the diner, two policemen.

General Subject/ Plot

1.8: A man’s dream in which is suggested an uneasiness about minorities, money, the fidelity of his wife, maybe gentrification. It involves leaving his “borrowed or leased” apartment and getting separated from his wife and child in the process of going to Manhattan to eat.

2.11: Man dreams an experience at a diner, where three wild youths sexually assault an employee before getting killed themselves.


1.8 Claire, Meryl Streep, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Pierre, grey suede gloves, clothing, young black professional (like “Napoleon”), redhead, apartment, infidelity, abortion? (“kid disappeared”)

2.11 diner, Jesus, rape, pale blue silk suit, abortion, nurse, deadbeats


The first “In Dreams” could be the article talked about in the second “Success”: “a dream in which a woman, the wife of the man who was dreaming, turned into Meryl Streep.”

A third person singular narrator in the first, a first person singular narrator in the second. In the first, the narrator seems highly agitated; in the second, the protagonist seems impassive, detached. The first involves masculine uncertainty about female sexuality, the second involves female victimization from a group of males. The second with a suggestion of metafiction (“‘I have expelled all illusion from this place.'”) the first with a suggestion of the literary (my book, Pierre). Both involve food (the diner, going out to eat), both contain the idea of hypnosis; in both, the antagonists to the dreamer, or the villains of the piece, are three men (old Jewish guys in the first, wild youths in the second). The second “In Dreams” corresponds strongly to the first “In the Diner” (echoed in particular is the disdain of the youths for the working person) — bottle of ketchup from the second “In the Diner”; another appearance of the television, another glimpse of contemporary religion in the diner of the dream; the first doesn’t appear to correspond as closely to other chapters of the book but features many familiar characters: the red head, the young black man, Meryl Streep, Bomba, the apartment, the philco radio, etc…

The re-occurrence of the number “25” is noted — the waitress of the second “In Dreams” seems to have aged by twenty-five years, “5625 Parkcrest West” is the address of the dreamer in the first “In Dreams” — Monica of the second “Movies” is 25 years old — etc.

1.7 / 2.5

January 16, 2015

“Pair of Deuces”
Book 1, chapter 7; Book 2, chapter 5


1.7 Protagonist, an old man (unnamed), his fellow card players and coinhabitants of what is probably a retirement facility (Warren, Ray, Blackie), problematic daughter-n-law (unnamed)

2.5 Jenny, lover of Ralph and husband of Bill; Inez, wife of Ralph and lover of Bill.

General Subject/ Plot

1.7: old man playing poker at senior facility trades in three cards in the hopes of getting a third deuce, with reflections.

2.5: Two couples (a pair of deuces) cheating on each other during the holiday season. A woman buys a christmas present for her husband with her lover, and have sex; her husband and her lover’s wife, who know of their spouse’s betrayal, are in the meantime also having sex.


1.7 Borsalino, baseball caps, powder blue worsted suit, white sun dress, Jesus, Gun Hill Road, Ridge Meadow Manor,

2.5 Christ, Christmas, Santa Claus, infidelity, alcohol (scotch and water, gin), blue suede, San Francisco


The first “Pair of Deuces” resembles the first “Movies” in that in each a man, feeling something akin to nostalgia, realizes it’s something different from a simple desire to return to the past he craves; in this case, it’s oblivion, it’s to have never been born.

I think the first “Pair of Deuces” is the first time we see an old man as protagonist.

The second “Pair of Deuces” suggests the story told in the first “Another Story” — a woman off to get a gift for her boyfriend/ husband winds up in a hotel room with her boyfriend/ husband’s friend. Also like the first “Another Story”, it seems to occur in San Francisco (St. Francis Hotel).

Is the implication of the first “Pair of Deuces” that the old man wanted to improve on his “pair” (a man and wife) with a third of the same type (another woman) and so lost to Ray, who stuck with his low pair (remained faithful, despite the irritation)?

In both “Pair of Deuces”, the continuing theme of the inefficacy/ hippocracy/ commercialization of religion. In the second, the appearance of television (black and white — so this occurs a good bit in the past), which also plays a role in the story that precedes it, the second “Lovers.” — The shows are portrayed as antic and ridiculous.