By Gilbert Sorrentino
Borrowing its identify from a William Carlos Williams poem, A unusual Commonplace lays naked the secrets and techniques and desires of characters whose lives are intertwined by means of twist of fate and necessity, possessions and experience.
Ensnared in a jungle of urban streets and suburban bed room groups from the boozy Fifties to the culturally vacuous current, strains blur among households and pals, violence and love, wish and melancholy. As fathers try and hook up with their little ones, as writers fight for credibility, as other halves stroll out, and an previous guy performs Russian roulette with a deck of playing cards, their tales resonate with poignancy and savage humor—familiar, tragic, and cathartic.
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Additional resources for A Strange Commonplace
53). But, if male or phallocentric time is identified with the aggressive onward drive of modernity – cities, wars, the spacerace – then the novel also characterises this male modernity as mythical, which is to say locked in the straining sterility of self-construction and self-replication. If to be 34 THE NOVEL IN CONTEMPORARY HISTORY a woman is to be the negative of man, to be condemned to a mirror-life reflecting back male fantasies of femaleness, then it is equally true that, as Mother tells Evelyn, ‘To be a man is not a given condition but a continuous effort’ (63).
1991: 158), we should be struck by the poise and steady purpose of the narrative’s impersonation of vulgarity. Like other novels that appear to have abandoned themselves to other media, Wise Children retains a hold upon its identity as a novel, exploiting the capacity which is paradoxically intrinsic to the form, to hold together different registers of experience and to inhabit intermediary conditions between the solemnly canonical word and its riotously vernacular counterparts. Other, less mainstream and more ‘experimental’ novelists appear to have made greater demands on the form and on its readers.
One effect of this is undoubtedly to maintain cultural distinctions and hierarchies, to divide up the market-place into easily and effectively targeted consumers and constituencies of taste. Oddly, however, the very diversification of the market that this brings about tends to make it more difficult to achieve. The availability and (as a result of the growth of advertising) the increasing visibility of these different constituencies and commodities, one to another, has tended to create market volatility alongside and within market standardisation.