Gil Orlovitz J. D. Scott - Essay

J. D. Scott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It is significant, I think, that quite early in "Milkbottle H" one of the characters refers to Joyce's "magnificently beautiful 'Ulysses'." For while Gil Orlovitz's novel is not Joycean in style—to be Joycean in style, you need to have a vast range of expression—it is written throughout in one of Joyce's modes. Thus it breaks up the conventional stream of narration and dialogue into rapidly shifting patterns of association and disassociation. It "plays" with ideas, words, images, sequences of events. This makes it hard to give an account of what "happens" in "Milkbottle H."…

Because all of the action is given in apparently random order amid showers of verbal fireworks, and because of the deliberate confusion about the names of the characters, [the plot] … is not easy to follow. The author has added other obstacles; for example, Rena is a compulsive liar, so that some of what one learns about her turns out not to be true. Even the literary illusions are tricky….

Is this very long and complex novel worth the care that must be taken to follow it and the frustration encountered in doing so? In spite of sympathy with the author's intentions, admiration for his tenacity, and pleasure (occasionally vivid) in his use of words, my own answer would be no, not really. It seems to belong too much to the avant-garde past.

J. D. Scott, "Ulysses in Philadelphia," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 4, 1968, p. 36.