Gil Orlovitz Henry Birnbaum - Essay

Henry Birnbaum

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Gil Orlovitz makes a genuine swan dive into imagination. (p. 408)

In The Diary of Alexander Patience, Gil Orlovitz strains meaning and metaphor. His purpose is to distort the commonplace so that it may be newly observed. Never completely successful, he makes a trying and interesting experiment of it. Sometimes he loses his reader in one of his contrived sexual niches, and sometimes he drives him to a non sequitur. But as often Orlovitz shocks his reader into awareness by striking a sleeping and satisfied nerve.

Orlovitz is modern urban American in his use of deceitful obscene-like devices to challenge primness, and in his linguistic somersaults. He is versatile and pyrotechnic, and he is difficult to look at. One becomes annoyed with his invention but one desires more of it. Half of him is genuine, the other half ingenious. He cannot be taken at face value, but he permits no bargaining. At worst he is a daring failure. At his current best he is a talented and comic inventor of paradox and challenge.

"Alexander Patience", who may be partially identified with Orlovitz, is a free-thinker whose verse diary records civiliza-tion's grotesques [and bitingly characterizes American society]…. In one (half) serious poem, Orlovitz allows a talking ape-man to join a veteran horse-bettor in a strained effort to keep a drunken pregnant woman from being arrested. The scene is comic, but the...

(The entire section is 551 words.)