A Strange Commonplace by Gilbert Sorrentino

By Gilbert Sorrentino


Borrowing its name from a William Carlos Williams poem, A unusual Commonplace lays naked the secrets and techniques and desires of characters whose lives are intertwined by way 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 neighbors, violence and love, desire and melancholy. As fathers attempt to connect to 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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33 The Christian doctrine o f salvation is one o f rebirth in a transformed nature. Nietzsche’s doctrine o f salvation, despite its explicit appeal to the Christian doctrine o f transformation, or to the notion o f the overcoming o f nature by the supernatural, is pagan rather than Christian. The ascent to the superman is not an ascent to the supernatural, and not an overcoming of, but a return to, nature. It should be added immediately that “nature” in Nietzsche represents an amalgam o f pre-Socratic doctrines o f kinesis and modern scientific doctrines o f force {Kraft).

But we have to be precise in stating the nature or content o f this denial. The turn toward the primacy o f productive activity is conditioned by our “deconstruction” or dissolution o f the illusory forms o f givenness, o f phusis or cosmos. T o that extent, Nietzsche remains a philosopher o f history, and so he continues to be bound by the phusis or nature o f the illusion itself. Before we can produce, or return to the origin o f chaos, we must first destroy the antecedent productions. But the past continues to be the theoretical if not creative paradigm for the future; what we can produce has already been given or produced.

This is also true o f Zarathustra. Com­ pare here Aristophanes’ Birds: The gods are nourished by feeding on the smoke of human sacrifices. Hence Zarathustra emphasizes the fact that the sun has risen to his cave for ten years; it has come up to him. The image is one o f anthropocentrism rather than heliocentrism. Zarathustra gives the sun its significance. This expresses very well Nietzsche’s synthesis o f ancients and moderns, or the peculiarly mod­ em way in which he attempts to return to the early Greeks.

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