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Little Casino

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In this superb novel composed of fragments of memory, Gilbert Sorrentino captures the unconventional nuances of a conventional world. A masterful collage of events is evocatively chained together by secrets and hidden truths that are almost accidentally revealed. Each episode, affectingly textured with penetrating detail, ferrets out the gristle and unconventional beauty found in the voices of the working-class inhabitants from an irretrievable, golden age Brooklyn.

220 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2002

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About the author

Gilbert Sorrentino

44 books115 followers
Gilbert Sorrentino was one of the founders (1956, together with Hubert Selby Jr.) and the editor (1956-1960) of the literary magazine Neon, the editor for Kulchur (1961-1963), and an editor at Grove Press (1965-1970). Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964) and The Autobiography of Malcolm X are among his editorial projects. Later he took up positions at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, the University of Scranton and the New School for Social Research in New York and then was a professor of English at Stanford University (1982-1999). The novelists Jeffrey Eugenides and Nicole Krauss were among his students, and his son, Christopher Sorrentino, is the author of the novels Sound on Sound and Trance.

Mulligan Stew is considered Sorrentino's masterpiece.

Obituary from The Guardian

Interview 2006

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,460 reviews3,627 followers
March 16, 2022
“Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.” Ludwig WittgensteinTractatus Logico-Philosophicus
In the first chapter Gilbert Sorrentino cites Ludwig Wittgenstein and this quote can be considered as a guideline for the entire novel.
Little Casino consists of short, elaborate, vaguely chained to each other vignettes and at the bottom of every yarn the author places his rather mysterious comments.
Minions and bacchantes, servants of Aphrodite and Dionysus, slaves to the black force of Eros, devotees of earthy, occulted mysteries. They order that which they desire to be done to them by their acolytes, their groveling husbands and lovers and trembling fools. They are pleased to have this power, although they are not aware of its effect on the boy who, though its creator, is obedient before it.

You are an onlooker, you stand still and all the events, personages, streets, scenery, dreams, fantasies are moving all around you… And time flies.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,114 followers
November 8, 2012
A short spectacular novel that forms part of an unofficial trilogy along with A Strange Commonplace and the posthumous The Abyss of Human Illusion we might label the “retirement” trilogy (GS having previously, and quietly, taught at Stanford until the late nineties). In a series of vignettes, Sorrentino dredges up the ghosts of his Brooklyn past for a typically sardonic, extra-specially perverse cockeyed slant at humanity and its failings. A warm-hearted and sometimes sentimental book, Little Casino is comfy in its artifice, with self-commentaries added to each chapter for further cranky or equally moving comments. Among the more amusing pieces is ‘Epistolary Associates’ where a woman criticises a letter sent by an ex-lover for not jolting her “into taking a fresh view of our relationship . . . your recollection of what we ‘had’ together seems, I’m afraid, rather flat.” The chapter concerning a vicious marital argument ‘The Tomato Episode’ is especially amusing when read by Sorrentino in this interview and podcast from the Lannan Foundation (sadly not filmed). The only video footage available of Sorrentino, seemingly, is him discussing Hubert Selby in the DVD It/ll Be Better Tomorrow.
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,234 followers
October 29, 2012
Heartache, loneliness, the thorough emptiness at the heart of lust, the weird and vague memory-glow induced by classic mid-century American songs, the stupidity of hopeless longing, our shifting pasts and lost chances, booze, broken dreams, desolate marriages, “The bird of time has but a little way to flutter, Ruth, he said”, snow falling in the circles of the streetlamps but everyone just wanting to be someone else, whisky that accents the cheap cigarette smell of her pale blue dress, the women we loved who never loved us, our dear departed, light as if an afternoon bled through honey, he just wants to fuck someone anyone, years’ humid accretions, Christmas trees, let’s not make this a story, “Such contradictions and blithe disruptions are the stuff of poetry”, a bar fight for the hell of it and a broken nose, blood mixing with vomit, blood stained smile under a wrecked table, Aphrodite and Plato and Dionysus, “how high the moon, there is no moon above, when love is far away too”, neat tautologies, a deep royal purple, where he was to go after the war, to bury himself between her breasts, a white cotton strap slipping off a suntanned shoulder, this piano’s out of tune, we still float on summertime lakes of our past, her glorious blush, his fabulous coupe, “they rode off into the night” is a comfortable phrase, “Do you ever wonder if the stars shine out for you? Float down like autumn leaves and hush now”, casino means “little house”, let’s have a Coke, a rondeau on a rondelle, the sharp light of bowling alleys, unanswered letters, “For a little silver quarter we can have the Pullman porter turn the lights down low Ooh!”, that the moon is “silvery” is a cliche, the first steps toward a realm of silence, click!, “Pack up all my care and woe, here I go, singing low, bye bye blackbird”.*

*Many but not all of the preceding may be found in Gil Sorrentino’s Little Casino, which has the same strange haunting resonance of some classic mid-century American songs, which are of course a type of shared memory, and this is, I’m sure, an effect deliberately cultivated and honed by the author, who always has us, the readers, in the foremost of his thoughts, as he has admitted.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
920 reviews976 followers
December 8, 2016
So like that Great Enemy Of Facile Fiction residing presently in D.C said, you all need to be reading more Sorrentino. The guy is a fucking literary genius.
Profile Image for Old Man and the Read.
1,047 reviews36 followers
October 26, 2021
This was an exceptional book, although, I must admit it took me a little while to warm up to it. It's made up entirely of very short vignettes, from one or two pages to sometimes a little more, and have almost no connection to each other. They are mostly about little snippets in peoples lives, sometimes significant, sometimes not so much. Sorrentino's writing is magnificent using very descriptive prose and he seems to be drawn, mostly, to subjects that are sexual in content or have something to do with death. Some of the vignettes are shocking, some are lewd, some are vulgar, some are morbid and some are humorous but they are all entertaining. One of the vignettes that stood out most for me was titled "Epistolary Associate" that seemed to be a parody of the book itself. It was written as a letter to someone and then a second letter replying to the first. The second letter was critical of the first saying it was pointless and vulgar and served no purpose which are criticisms that anyone could make against this book if they didn't like it.
Profile Image for AC.
1,721 reviews
January 27, 2013
Gilbert Sorrentino... racing against Death and... knowingly... resentfully... losing a step every mile...
Author 12 books
May 15, 2010
This was my first encounter with Gilbert Sorrentino. I'll definitely be reading more of him. This particular novel is sort of a non-linear, fictionalized memoir about growing up in Brooklyn. Sorrentino is best known as an "experimental" writer - a problematic term if ever there was one - and indeed this book is very fragmentary and "post-modern" in its constant subversion of narrative reliability. Each brief chapter is isolated to a single scene or memory which has been altered by obvious confusions of embellishments. Furthermore, each chapter ends with a tongue-in-cheek authorial "commentary" which, while assuming the voice of objectivity, ends up playing with the reader all the more. It's like looking through an album of faded photographs, and then finding that the writing on the back of each photograph is more humorous commentary and misdirection that fact.

I don't usually like self-consciously "pomo" writing, but here the structure is fully grounded in the needs of the tale. Furthermore, Sorrentino's voice - full of
the warmth and the rhythm of spoken word, replete with genuine humanity - cures the potential cerebral coldness that often mars novels with a self-contained, "high concept" structure. Sorrentino actually reminded me, at certain moments, of Harlan Ellison in his more earth-bound modes.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 30 books9 followers
January 4, 2008
Wow--no one can write like Gilbert Sorrentino. This book is captivating and provocative from beginning to end.
September 20, 2023
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This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
January 11, 2021
Having grown up in the same three or four square blocks of the same Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, neighborhood that Sorrentino wrote about, I found some of the content interesting despite the author's poor style. Like Carver and Bukowski, Sorrentino understood that, in order to be published and praised by the bourgeoisie, working class people must be presented in fiction as self destructive idiots. Yet he himself was not a idiot but, raised in the same environment he describes as brutal, a much praised and rewarded intellectual. His tarting up his tales of Brooklyn with Post modernist writers tricks didn't solve this basic contradiction.
Profile Image for Matthew Fries.
Author 1 book7 followers
June 4, 2019
You might love this book; you might hate this book. I loved it. I thought it was funny as hell with some fantastic lines in it. It's not really like anything I have ever read before, so it is hard to find something to compare it to. The writing reminds me slightly of Raymond Carver, but not really.
1 review
August 10, 2023
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Profile Image for Scott.
5 reviews
December 10, 2007
Sorrentino is one of those "author's authors" and I'm always interested in knowing what other writers are impressed / influenced by (the same way I tend to pick up records by artists whose music is covered and/or cited by my favorite musicians). It has been a while, but I remember this being simultaneously raw and polished, almost a memoir-like feel for seedy detail rendered with a stonecarver's patience.

My memories of this particular book are a little, shall we say, "impressionistic" - perhaps that's because I read it in a vicodin-and-antibiotic haze in the wake of a broken rib/sinus infection combo during an extended Christmas visit to Birmingham, Alabama with my then soon-to-be-ex-in-laws. Sigh.
Profile Image for Connor.
417 reviews36 followers
February 3, 2017
A novel notable only for its unique structure of short vignettes with mysterious author commentaries affixed to each section. The content ranges from saccharine to 'erotic'. I'm genuinely uninterested in reading 60 pages of lines like "He knows, though, that she doesn't like him anymore, which is why he is fucking her so seriously" (pg. 129).
Profile Image for Howard.
185 reviews5 followers
November 11, 2012
Postmodern fun from Sorrentino in 2002. Talks about memory, desire and the writing process. Winks at the audience a lot. Does things like use a narrative device, then comments on it, then comments on his comment. Which also doesn't impact on the fact the device does its job. Felt there was a comic piece or two which broke the spell though.
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