Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Farewell, Gil Sorrentino

Farewell, Gil Sorrentino
It is with great sadness that I report the death of my old teacher, Gil Sorrentino.

I took Gil's class on experimental fiction while I was at Stanford. He was a great teacher, perfectly at ease with himself, and willing to treat his students as peers, despite his exalted literary status.

Gil's class came at an important time for me. I had been suffering from a terminal case of writer's block--a big problem for Creative Writing majors.

Basically, I was afflicted with excessive self-consciousness. I was keenly aware of, as the saying goes, "sitting down to commit an act of literature." No sooner did I start to write when my inner critic began to tear me to shreds.

Gil's experimental fiction, with its emphasis on allow artificial constraints to free your creativity was just what I needed. I wrote furiously and prolifically again, and developed a taste for ornate forms like the sestina. Since then, I've rarely had any problems with writing.

Sadly, I haven't spoken or contacted Gil in years. I think I wrote him a note when his last book came out. Alas, as the years pass, I fear that I'll be saying goodbye to more and more of my old teachers and mentors. Take my advice--take the time now to write to them and tell them how much they affected your life. I know I will.

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