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Aberration of Starlight

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  233 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Set at a boardinghouse in rural New Jersey in the summer of 1939, this novel revolves around four people who experience the comedies, torments, and rare pleasures of family, romance, and sex while on vacation from Brooklyn and the Depression. As the novel's perspective shifts to each of the four primary characters, four discrete stories take form, stories that Sorrentino f ...more
Paperback, 211 pages
Published July 1st 1993 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 1st 1980)
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After reading Mulligan Stew, Sorrentino had both my curiosity and attention, and I knew that I had to read his other works without much delay. The reason to pick Aberration of Starlight (Fantastic Title!) was to read something conventional (according to Gil’s standards, of course) within the realms of story-telling and with this book, I’m convinced of his inimitable style which solely belongs to him because only he had the talent to make it work.

Nothing much is going on here plot wise: Summer of
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Carlton's sweater vest
Recommended to Mariel by: Mike Puma's favorite scot (you know who you are)
aberration of starlight... The true path of light from a star to an observer is along the straight line from the star to the observer; but, because of the component of the observer's velocity in a direction perpendicular to the direction to the star, the light appears to be traveling along a path at an angle to the true direction to the star. - The New Columbia Encyclopedia

Did I like Aberration of Starlight? Kind of. Sorrentino uses different instruments to record the expectations from light yea
MJ Nicholls
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sorrentino’s sixth work of fiction plants an unexpected but apt quotation from Brian O’Nolan after the final page: “The meanest bloody thing in hell made this world.”

Aberration of Starlight is one of Sorrentino’s most bitter, scathing and unflinching novels (and perhaps the closest he came to ‘realism’ in content only) in his hefty canon. Split between four characters—a son, his mother, her lover and a father—the book probes into the “psychopathology of everyday life” (Freud ref but also a short
Mike Puma
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, dalkey-archive

4.5 to 5 stars—for one of those interesting experiments in form, a narrative in parts and pieces, a kaleidoscope story—turn it slightly and it becomes something else, a different picture, some variation on what’s preceded and a variation of what will come.

This is one of those novels actually done justice by the summary of its GR title page. Four people staying in a summer boardinghouse, most on a vacation from the city, each with his or her own story, although overlapping with the stories of th

Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century
A truly excellent family nightmare. There's cynicism and viciousness in it, but also heartfelt sincerity. The book is quite a surprise coming from the author of the far more outrageous and facetious Mulligan Stew. This has formal-experimental qualities which are familiarly Sorrentino-style: lists, linguistic quirks, written correspondence (whether it was "actually" written, or just imagined, or whether such a distinction can be made, I can't say), the intrusion of fantasy, etc. But it's not an A ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think, as I am one of those who prefer a little more Mo and a little less Po in my PoMo, this was rather a perfect selection for my second GS book (the Stew was great, but some of the play left me a little cold), and it has encouraged me to continue with his work.

In many ways this is quite a traditional text, the subject matter being that which thousands of writers have considered thousands of times before. What elevates this is both the quality of the prose itself, and the intelligent and co
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
In his review of David Markson's Wittgenstein’s Mistress, reviewer Adam says, "It is a bit insulting to consider this work “experimental”, as it is well, so successful." Great minds may disagree as to whether 'experimental' is a pejorative and 'insulting' descriptor, but in the case of Gilbert Sorrentino it is simply incorrect, as it is also incorrect in the case of David Markson.

Aberration of Starlight is a beautiful family story which takes place over the course of a few days at a summer vaca
Vit Babenco
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Aberration of Starlight is a postmodern love story: a mix of drab reality and crazy fantasies, a single story told by four participants from different vantage points…
A ten-year-old postmodern boy seeing a grownup world distorted in his mind, a lonely child dreaming to have a father;
An inexperienced and romantic catholic woman, boy’s divorced mother cherishing hopes to find a new love and a perfect new spouse;
An unscrupulous petty lecher loaded with dirty dreams and cheap lewdness:
“Then, through
Brad Lyerla
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
John, Marie and her ten year old son Billy are summering at a boarding house in New Jersey. It is 1939. Tom Thebus is vacationing at the boarding house too. Marie and Tom strike up a flirtatious relationship. Billy hopes that Marie and Tom will marry and Tom will become his dad. John fears being alone and opposes his daughter's growing relationship with Tom, who John dislikes as glib and insincere.

Sorrentino makes this simple story complex by telling it four times, giving us each character's pri
Feb 17, 2012 marked it as to-read
Did y'all know this was one of DFW's favorite books? That right there's some trivia you can use to get the conversation loose at your next cocktail social. In a lull say "Did y'all know Sorrentino's "Aberration of Starlight" was one of David Foster Wallace's favorite books?" and watch the crowd gawk and slobber. Guaranteed to make you up to 60% more interesting to the opposite sex.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Sorrentino book and I have to say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I usually have a hard time getting into period novels (this story taking place in 1939 New Jersey) but this one didn't feel like a period novel. Well, it did and it didn't.

Mostly, Sorrentino is just a master storyteller, employing all the tricks of the trade, but not in a hokey or gimmickry way. The story is told through letters, bits of question and answer type exposition, inner dialogue, and other mo
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
In this novel, Sorrentino explores the different ways in which a story can be told. There are four main characters in the story, and the text is in four parts, each of which focuses on a different character. Moreover, each of the four parts is in several sections, and in each of these latter Sorrentino deploys a different narrative technique to represent the character’s experiences. Thus, in one section he employs third person narration, in another he employs interior monologue, in another he em ...more
Aditya Watts
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
With a fancy title as such I expected a fancy convoluted high-falutin story full of pomo experimentation but instead I got breathless interior dia(mono)logue sans much purpling. Easy, addictive and satisfying. Loved the first part the best - specially can't forget Billy's letter to Daddy.

"Dear Daddy,
...Well how are you? I don't know why, I ask, because I don't really care because I hate you.
...I hope Tom Theboss will marry Mom, ad I Really hope so. Because I am sick of thinking about you and wi
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Normally, the term "experimental literature" would strike fear and trepidation into my linear-narrative-loving heart, but I actually found Sorrentino's "Aberration of Starlight" pretty enjoyable.

Essentially, it is the same event, as depicted from the perspective of four different characters. The depictions themselves are portrayed through letters, Q&A sections, recounting of the characters' dreams and fantasies, and even the occasional straightforward narrative by the author. It all comes t
Dec 05, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting novel that uses a variety of techniques to write sensitively about how four different people see the same event, and in general they have sort of sad, repressed lives, but the ground trod is so minor that finishing one section didn't really make me that interested to read the next, which is why it took me a few months to read a pretty short book.
Lynne Wright
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Its 1939. A young divorcee is on vacation in the country with her cranky old dad and her son. She goes on a date with a skeevy skirt-chaser. That's it... that's all that happens. But its a beautiful read.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-years-ago
ONe of a kind, top of the game, inventive beyond all imagining, a real writer's writer, and I think this is his best book. So funny, so human, four varied voices, all not to be trusted. High modernism with a sense of humor that's like an American Joyce, but more swingin'.
Sep 06, 2011 added it
No star
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Couldn't make it five.

Aberration of Starlight is a very unique novel as it puts a postmodern spin on a story which is anything but. The same events (spanning around a day and a half) are seen through the eyes of four different characters on vacation in a New Jersey boarding house. The use of multiple perspectives adds several layers of depth to the story, and I wasn't disappointed in that department. The real postmodern effects here consist of the ways in which Sorrentino reveals the plot and ch
Sarah L
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
If I'm honest, I was unable to finish this one... I liked it well enough in the beginning, not sure what happened but I lost interest. Perhaps I grew to dislike Tom Thebus. I may give it another shot after some time.
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My hatred of the post-modern and the experimental in fiction is as well-known and established as my scorn for the contemporary vampire fiction craze. But just as there is one Anne Rice novel that I don't hate with everything in me, so, too, is there a novel in the PM/experimental that I actually, genuinely adore.

Sorrentino skillfully makes use of a technique most readers will be familiar with film, that of presenting different character perspectives around a series of central events, with each r
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Ok so I'm all for all the narrative techniques used in this thing, and I'm all for them being used the way Gilbert Sorrentino uses them. Multiple narrators giving different perspectives on the same events, great. Each of them providing something different and almost contradictory to the last, you're not quite sure what the actual truth is, is there even an actual truth, etc., also great. Interviews, letters, imaginary scenarios-- cool cool. I should love this.

Except that I don't. I'm not sure e
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great character study that uses a variety of different techniques to tell it's story. The story, itself, is fairly simple and takes place during 36 hours at a small, vacation boardinghouse on the shores of a lake in New Jersey and focuses on four charaters: a 10 year old boy, his divorced mom, his grandfather, and a male guest who has set his sights on seducing the mom. The book is divided into four sections and the events are told and retold from the perspective of each character and Sorrenti ...more
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Good, solid Sorrentino. I like the Rashomon approach of telling the same events from different perspectives. It is a bit tough to read in some ways, though, just because the language (and, worse, the bigotry behind it) is a bit rough in spots. It's strange; I don't generally mind strong language in books, but here, the ugliness beneath the words is genuinely upsetting.

One thing was a bit odd, though. I can see glimpses of the style he perfected in Mulligan Stew, but that was published a year bef
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thank you dear friend for shoving this into my hands and demanding me to read it. I don't know how I thought reading was worth it until right now. Until right this second. Until this moment where I felt reading makes me feel something. For the people who are much wiser (in other words quite older) than me, for the people who go through tough decisions in the beginning of adulthood (parents), for the losers who pick people up just to use them (players), and the children, who although innocent and ...more
Carlos Kelley
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Read way less than I wanted to last year, so trying to make up for it this year. Part of that means I won't force myself to finish books I don't want to finish. Made it to page 170/211. I've never really written reviews so these are just quick notes.

Feels like mostly "realism" with little meta-bits and fantasies spicing things up a bit, but oftentimes those bits didn't seem to gel with the rest of what was happening. Didn't feel exciting or new, which is mostly what I look for in reading. Most
Diana Eberhardt
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absorbing study of sexuality and family at a summer boarding house in 1939 NJ, near to Budd Lake, Hackettstown, and Netcong.
Oct 14, 2012 marked it as to-read
Ryan Gibson
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite teacher had me read this book. We disagreed on who we felt more for. I wish I had listened to him more when recommended me books. Because I still remember this.
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, postmodern
Consistently my favorite author, every journey is a new one, and written with the same fresh perspective as to never get old
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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, t ...more
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