Gil Orlovitz Kevin Sullivan - Essay

Kevin Sullivan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The successor to the anti-novel would seem to be, inevitably, the no-novel. This might be defined as a genre that no longer experiments with form but discards all form and concentrates on the presentation of immediately felt experience or, more accurately, allows that experience to present itself. In this sense Milkbottle H (more about that title in a moment) is a no-novel, and Gil Orlovitz a no-novelist, which is to say a writer, and essentially a poet, whose explosive, sprawling, nonstop prose insists constantly on its own self-sufficiency. To the traditional eye it will appear as formless as lava and as uncontainable, for there is in fact no container for the verbal energies at work here, no plot, no beginning and no end to the rush and crush of language….

The scene is Philadelphia, well off the Main Line, with occasional side-shifts to Los Angeles and New York. The time seems to be around World War II, but time is in wild flux around the characters, who are unencumbered by any dimension.

Chief among them is a young Jew named Lee Emanuel who is enmeshed in a web of sexual and familial relationships that are constantly shifting, breaking off, reforming and through all their permutations making impossible any sense of permanent identity. Lee is beset by women, most of them unappetizing: Rena Goldstein, whom he marries and abuses and who deserves every bit of it; Nina, a nutty but essentially sympathetic artist; Terry Shannon, the one shiksa in the lot, and unassorted aunts and female relations whose incestuous designs upon Lee are like those of all his women—a kind of psycho-sexual engulfment raising the possibility that he might be reborn again in all of them. And indeed something very like this seems to be at the root of Lee Emanuel's comic agony. Solipsist and infantile, he carries his physical presence as the mere outward sign of a metaphysical quandary....

(The entire section is 790 words.)