Tuesday New Release Day
Out this week: a new novel, Dissident Gardens, by Year in Reading alum Jonathan Lethem; Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush; His Wife Leaves Him by Stephen Dixon; Goat Mountain by Year in Reading alum David Vann; Someone by Alice McDermott; and Enon by Paul Harding, which Joseph M. Schuster wrote about for The Millions yesterday.
Jonathan Lethem thinks his work is taken too seriously. “Well, I was just watching Richard Pryor, and he says, ‘When you’re dating a white woman, and people don’t like it, you can’t really pretend. You can’t go, “Oh, she’s not with me.”’ ‘You write the big, ambitious books, right?’ Well, I guess they are,” he said in an interview with Salon. He also discusses being equated with Jonathan Franzen and his new novel, Dissident Gardens.
This was 1985 — not the Anthony Burgess novel, the year (Anthony Burgess wrote so many books you might have to make that specification about a number of words or phrases — “On going to bed, I read ninety-nine novels — no, I mean I really did go to bed and read ninety-nine novels!”). I was dropping out of college and had begun a novel and returned to New York. A bookstore in Manhattan announced a rare reading and signing by Anthony Burgess, a primary hero of mine at the time, for his autodidact’s erudition and braggadocio, and for how he’d gentrified a number of outre genres just by picking them up and mingling them with his erudition and braggadocio.
"It’s an inevitably posed question, perhaps a fake-clever one, given Jonathan Lethem’s cheeky chapter titles in his new entry in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series about Talking Heads’ 1979 album Fear of Music. ‘Is Fear of Music A Talking Heads Record?’ he asks in one. ‘Is Fear of Music A Text?’ he poses in another.”
- Is ‘Fear of Music’ A Book? by Jesse Arnow
Recently I came upon instances of three very different writers drawing on three very different movies to produce three odd and wondrous little books. The writers are Geoff Dyer, Don DeLillo, and Jonathan Lethem, who, for all their differences, have one thing in common. Each became bewitched by a movie that spoke so forcefully to him that he watched it again and again until it revealed all of its secrets and meanings, until he grasped what might be called the movie’s deep tissues.
Talk about post-modern moments. A critic writes a review of a writer. Then the writer responds to the critic. Then a blogger writes an article about the writer’s response to the critic. Then posters attack the writer for responding to the critic and other posters attack those posters for attacking the writer’s response. Then the critic responds to the posters, but no one believes he is the actual critic. The strangest/funniest part was perhaps when one poster pretending to be the critic also in response posted a link to a James Wood web site that is for James Wood the used car dealer and another asked that money be deposited in an offshore account for James Woods in the Cayman Islands, although those posts were unfortunately deleted.