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But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem

16 March 2017
The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... Trying to make sense​ of JonathanLethem’s fiction as a whole is something of a fool’s errand: there is no easily discernible line from the early hipster science fiction to his big-selling detective story Motherless Brooklyn (1999), to ...

White Boy Walking

Evan Hughes: Jonathan Lethem

5 July 2007
You Don’t Love Me Yet 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, May 2007, 978 0 571 23562 9
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... When JonathanLethem was born, in 1964, his mother had dropped out of college and was piercing ears with a pin and ice-cube in Greenwich Village, where she ran with a crowd of folksingers including Tuli Kupferberg, Dave ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem

20 February 2014
Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... The early​ 21st century brought a new type of American novel. Its best-known practitioners – all men of the same generation, born in the mid to late 1960s – are Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz and JonathanLethem. The books they wrote were interested in popular culture or counterculture as much as in the thoughts and passions of characters. Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000 ...


Jonathan Lethem: My Egyptian Cousin

12 December 2002
... on keeping on’. I first met Saad some time in the 1960s, when I was five or six years old. I clearly remember him visiting our house in Brooklyn as early as 1971, and then more clearly still at Lethem family reunions held at various sites in Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri on through the 1970s. I understood his place in my life, and in my family, through a lens of ‘1960s consciousness’ inherited ...

Wear flames in your hair

William Skidelsky: Jonathan Lethem​ and back-street superheroes

24 June 2004
The Fortress of Solitude 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 511 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 571 21933 0
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... JonathanLethem’s novels tend to be fusions of genres. As She Climbed across the Table (1997) is a science-fiction campus novel; Girl in Landscape (1998) an SF western. Gun, with Occasional Music (1994), his first ...

On the Make

Thomas Jones: Jonathan Lethem

6 September 2001
Gun, with Occasional Music 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 262 pp., £5.99, August 2001, 0 571 20959 9
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... JonathanLethem’s first novel is set at an indeterminate time in the not too distant future. The United States – and possibly the whole world – is now run by the Inquisition, also known as the Office. You need ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Matrix

22 May 2003
... and desire into product.’ And then one day I got tired of it all and gave my toys away to a younger boy who lived down the road. A Galaxy Not So Far Away opens with a brilliant and sad essay by JonathanLethem, called ‘13, 1977, 21’, about how he went to see Star Wars 21 times in the summer of 1977 (he was 13), when his mother was gravely ill. ‘I think I came to hate a lot of the film,’ he ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey

6 June 2002
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... An overnight success in the making for nearly forty years, Spider-Man had been in the making in the mind of the child sitting behind me (at an 11 o’clock show at a multiplex in Brooklyn on 3 May, the earliest possible viewing for a member of the general public) for several months before the film’s opening, at least. Perhaps six years old, the child showed in its involuntarily murmured comments ...


Jonathan Lethem: Theatre of Injury

15 December 2016
... I write​ out of disarray, from a field of compatriots in disarray. We’re drifting like astronauts, distantly tethered by emails like the one I just got from a friend: ‘i feel like he is making everyone sick, and bipolar./i feel like I am so incredibly ill-equipped to deal with any of this./i’m taking blind advice from all comers without feeling like anything is remotely adequate./ i feel nostalgic ...


Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers

8 August 2013
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... of a translation of a translation of a translation of a translation. The dust jacket mentions Chinese whispers, we might think of the Surrealist pastime Cadavre exquis, and within the book Jonathan and Mara Faye Lethem mention Telephone, which ‘dredges up memories of Brooklyn basements in the 1970s, clammy ears and unspoken crushes’. They also direct us to Wikipedia, which says that ...

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

David Haglund: Tao Lin

21 October 2010
Richard Yates 
by Tao Lin.
Melville House, 206 pp., £10.99, October 2010, 978 1 935554 15 8
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... he uses them as straightforwardly as David Foster Wallace uses X and Y in ‘Octet #6’, for example, or as Lorrie Moore uses Mother and Baby in ‘People like That Are the Only People Here’. JonathanLethem has said that ‘strange character names are an easy way to make sure the reader feels, at the deepest level, they’re entering a propositional space where they have to suspend some of their ...


Jonathan Lethem: My Marvel Years

15 April 2004
... In the mid-1970s I had two friends who were into Marvel comics. Karl, whose parents were divorced, and Luke, whose parents were among the most stable I knew. My parents were something between: separated, or separating, sometimes living together and sometimes apart, and each of them with lovers.Luke had an older brother, Peter, whom both Luke and I idealised in absentia. Peter had left behind a collection ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’

24 May 2007
Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... few actors can do: deliver portentous and self-pitying lines (‘Spider-Man will always have enemies’) not as if he believes in them but as if he knows that everything means something to somebody. JonathanLethem, writing about Spider-Man in these pages, reported on the child in the cinema who murmured, as Peter misses the school bus in the opening scene, ‘It’s always like that for him,’ and this ...

The Family That Slays Together

Deborah Friedell: Lorrie Moore

19 November 2009
A Gate at the Stairs 
by Lorrie Moore.
Faber, 322 pp., £16.99, October 2009, 978 0 571 19530 5
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... of novels to choose from.) What Tassie most has in common with her creator is a hyper-awareness of the way words sound, a double seeing that allows her to consider words apart from their meanings – JonathanLethem calls it Moore’s sense of ‘the thingliness of words’. Rhymes and puns are everywhere, with an extravagance that wouldn’t be out of place in a Renaissance drama. When Tassie’s dim ...

Desk Job

Deborah Friedell: Bernard Malamud

15 November 2007
Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life 
by Philip Davis.
Oxford, 377 pp., £18.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 927009 5
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... Suffering is what brings us towards happiness – it teaches us to want the right things.’ In recent years, Malamud has been championed by a new generation of Jewish-American writers. Dara Horn, Jonathan Safran Foer, JonathanLethem and Jonathan Rosen have all written loving introductions to his novels, and sometimes it seems that what they most admire about them is all the suffering: so awful, and ...

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