Red the Fiend

Overview

A recasting of Sorrentino's Aberration of Starlight, this is the story of how a child becomes a monster: of how Red the boy becomes Red the Fiend. With an absent father who turns up only to drunkenly berate his son, and a grandmother whose aggression crescendos to a daily beating, Red can only escape by turning his hatred outward, by being as cruel and bitter as his young life has been. Employing direct, elegant sentences, while retaining his characteristic formal inventiveness, Sorrentino evokes this ...
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Overview

A recasting of Sorrentino's Aberration of Starlight, this is the story of how a child becomes a monster: of how Red the boy becomes Red the Fiend. With an absent father who turns up only to drunkenly berate his son, and a grandmother whose aggression crescendos to a daily beating, Red can only escape by turning his hatred outward, by being as cruel and bitter as his young life has been. Employing direct, elegant sentences, while retaining his characteristic formal inventiveness, Sorrentino evokes this unyieldingly grim Brooklyn boyhood, describing close, familial conflicts that deepen and widen to reflect the hardships of Depression-era life.
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Editorial Reviews

Bookforum
Red the Fiend is a discomfiting masterpiece, once read impossible to forget or shake off.
—Gerald Howard
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Red, the barely adolescent Irish-American antihero of Sorrentino's latest novel, lives with his mother at his grandparents' dingy Brooklyn home, where he's become the perennial target of his grandmother's sadistic hatred. When she makes an egg too runny and soft, Red is punished; when she finds lice in his hair, she comments that the infestation is a sign of his inherent evil and douses his head with vinegar. Patrolling the comings and goings of her family, belittling the occasional excess like ladyfingers (``those God damned Protestant cakes'') or a movie, whipping Red mercilessly, Grandma strangles the household into an eerie submission. In the process, she turns the stolid, helpless Red into a ``fiend'' who flogs himself with her belts and rarely rises above a state of pummeled apathy. Sorrentino (Under the Shadow), who's a poet as well as novelist, recreates with immaculate care Red's brutally dysfunctional family and the dangerous city streets (circa 1940) into which the boy escapes. The violence and pain of his tale jars with the aloof serenity of his writing, however, and, for all his craftsmanship, his characters, so grim, gray and mutilated, probably won't stoke the interest of many readers for long. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This novel chronicles the early life of a boy named Red who lives in Depression-era New York City under the truly malevolent eye of his grandmother. The gifted Sorrentino (Misterioso, LJ 10/15/89) examines the development of Red's personality under the influence of Grandma's repeated and vicious physical and mental abuse, which is described in overwhelming detail. While this book is a tour de force, this reviewer cannot think of a single person to whom he would recommend it. Written somewhat in the vein of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho (LJ 1/91), it is simply too graphic in its brutality. If you have a readership determined to read all literary fiction, or if you have fans of Sorrentino in particular, buy this. For other collections, it has little appeal.-David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784520
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Series: Lannan Selection Series
  • Pages: 213
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gilbert Sorrentino was born in Brooklyn in 1927. He attended Brooklyn College and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps for two years. In 1956 he began Neon, a literary magazine. In the early '60s he was an editor and a contributor for Kulchur magazine and served as an editor for Grove Press from 1965. He has published thirty books of fiction and poetry, including two novels that were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner award: Little Casino and Aberration of Starlight. A recipient of the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, a Lannan Literary Award, and two Guggenheim Fellowships, he was a professor at Stanford University for many years. He died on May 18, 2006.
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