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Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things Paperback – January 1, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this episodic 1971 novel, Sorrentino introduces writers and artists of the 1960s, characters representative of all creatives--the aimless, the successful, the failures and the sell-outs. "The author's fury at it all is tempered . . . and augmented with compassion, understanding and wit," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Has that air of astonished contempt that keeps true satire fresh forever." --Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784703
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784704
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Domini on August 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sorrentino's death in the late spring of '06 prompted me to take another look at this extraordinary novel -- among the accomplishments of which is a savage yet satisfying evisceration of what novels usually deliver. What I found was nothing less than a neglected masterpiece of the last thirty years.

What distinguishes Sorrentino's accomplishment, above all, is his honesty. IMAGINATIVE QUALITIES OF ACTUAL THINGS portrays some eight failures in the arts (by and large the literary arts, as a title filched from William Carlos Williams would suggest) of the '60s in New York: "this," our narrator notes repeatedly, "is a book about destruction." But nothing so defines that destruction, nothing so renders it at once hilarious and poignant, as its denial -- the specious yet laughable reasoning by which artists and writers justify their failures. A number of the figures here lack the talent worth a drink, yet flounder in self-importance, in the process blowing their chances for other kinds of fulfillment, in particular fulfilling love.

Each chapter here sketches a different loser, and yet the impact throughout is leavened by a certain perverse affection. Our narrator is the thread that binds them all, a recording angel who wails "I'm so tired of you all," yet seems also to kiss each hypocrisy, each deeper blackening of these rapidly shriveling souls, and to award the sin a bitter but tasty wisecrack. Too, the loosely interwoven anecdotes of young adulthood and early middle age do include the story of one writer of real gifts -- though his gifts go unrewarded, driving this closeted gay to fierce excesses of self-hatred. And yet this tragic character's chapter often has you snorting with laughter, out of bittersweet recognition.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
I'm too young to have lived through the fifties, but I'm utterly convinced that phoniness and fakery must have reached a pinnacle in that decade, largely because of this great novel. It's a corrosive satire, not of the pervasive I-like-Ike suburban culture as one might expect, but of the downtown New York intellectuals and artists who opposed it. In devastatingly funny prose, their motives are mocked, their sufferings are skewered, and their mediocrity is made manifest.
If you've ever patted yourself on the back for being smarter than the Philistines around you--and who hasn't done that when the subject of Sylvester Stallone's salary came up in conversation?--you'd do well to read this book, spotting glimpses of yourself on every page.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mark Silcox on May 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
At its best, this book is really, really mean. Sorrentino has a great eye for some of the most crapulent cliches of American intellectual life, and the characters he sketches here are their embodiments. The passages on the 1960s "back to nature" movement and the dread vers libre that it inspired are extermely funny, and deserve to be read aloud.
Here's the thing though - Sorrentino belonged to a generation of writers who for some reason managed to convince themselves that if they paused every fifteen pages or so in the midst of some narrative and said "well, here I am writing a book about a bunch of people who don't really exist," or something similar, they were displaying the very height of literary sophistication and originality. Words cannot convey how quickly this "metafictional" approach became stale, and like Jacobean drama, absurdist theatre and Disco music, it seems pretty much destined to be viewed as a phase in the history of the arts distinctive mainly by virtue of its freakishness. Which is realy kind of ironic, given the nature of Sorrentino's quarry.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By hllib on October 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First three-quarters of the book are great. The prose was pitch-perfect, the composition and literary technique masterful, the narrator self-aware and reader-involving. An absorbing, fascinating read.
Then the book got a bit repetitious. Some material went over my head. Other stuff seemed to be an "in" joke between Sorrentino and his friends. By the end I was relieved.
Still, if you like heavily literary fiction with a strong sense of humor about others', and its own, pretensions, you'll enjoy this minor masterpiece.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Domenick Capobianco on September 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
and a great read, especially if you are interested in the art scene in New York during the 60's.
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