Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Christian

Jonatham Lethem

34 posts in this topic

Gosh, I'd forgotten all about this controversy, but suppose I'll revisit it when I get to The Ecstacy of Influence, about which I've heard great things and which is awaiting my completion of Chronic City. I don't much care for the latter, but this is my second attempt at it, and I'm going to polish it off. I'm nearly finished with, although I lost interest in the story about a third of the way through the novel.

But the reason I came here tonight is to highlight Lethem's story in the latest New Yorker. The title concerns me, but I guess I'll dive in and see what the author has come up with.

EDIT: Oh, and one other thing related to previous posts in this thread. I was going to post in the "Zona" thread that I received my copy today of Geoff Dyer's latest book, but then I decided to wait until I had something to say about the book, until I'd read some of it. The only thing I've read so far is the back of the dust jacket, which consists only of a laudatory quote about Dyer's other books. And from whose work is that quote pulled? From a New Yorker article by ... James Wood!

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My progress has been slowed on The Ecstacy of Influence, but I got in some good listening today while spreading mulch for an hour. The story from the collection that captivated me is "Being James Brown," published in Rolling Stone in 2006, and available online here for anyone who's interested. http://www.rollingst...-story-20101224

Excerpt:

So, the James Brown statue may seem to have walked on its flat bronze feet the mile from Twiggs to Broad, to which it keeps its back, reserving its grin for the gentlefolk on and across Broad Street, the side that gives way to the river — the white neighborhoods to which James Brown, as a shoeshine boy, hustler, juvenile delinquent, possibly even as a teenage pimp, directed his ambition and guile. Policemen regularly chased James Brown the length of that mile, back toward Twiggs — he tells stories of diving into a watery gutter, barely more than a trench, and hiding underwater with an upraised reed for breathing while the policemen rumbled past — and, once the chase was over, he'd creep again toward Broad, where the lights and music were, where the action was, where Augusta's stationed soldiers with their monthly paycheck binges were to be found. Eventually, the city of Augusta jailed the teenager, sentenced him to eight-to-sixteen for four counts of breaking and entering. When he attained an early release, with the support of the family of his friend and future bandmate Bobby Byrd, it was on the condition that he never return to Augusta. Deep into the Sixties, years past "Papa's Brand New Bag," James Brown had to apply for spu permits to bring his band to perform in Augusta; he esentially had been exiled from the city for having the dacity to transverse that mile from Twiggs to Broad. Now his statue stands at the end of the mile, facing away. Grinning. Resolving nothing. James Brown, you see, may in fact be less a statue than any human being who ever lived. James Brown is kinetic; an idea, a problem, a genre, a concept, a method — anything, really, but a statue.

That is beautiful.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bumping this because J. Henry Waugh has posted that he recently read The Ecstasy of Influence. I see above that I didn't have too much to say here about the audio version I listened to, but when I saw J. Henry's mention, it made me smile and think happy thoughts. Which means I must have liked the Lethem collection to some extent.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I going to have to go first on Dissident Gardens? Because I will. Just not yet. Not. Quite. Yet. (I'm bursting to talk about the novel, but I'm very early in it.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I listened to the audiobook last fall and enjoyed it, particularly everything involving Rose (the narrator got her perfectly, particularly her love of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln). The cousin Lenny baseball section and the game show set piece stand out as well.

 

Books like Dissident Gardens, Freedom, Telegraph Avenue certainly occupy a genre for me in that I come to them with expecting certain beats and I tend to like them best when they bring the humor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I'm just passing through the Lenny baseball section, although I had kids in the car complaining that I wasn't playing music while I tried to make sure they didn't hear any language or passages that were age-inappropriate. I failed in that, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't believe we never talked about Dissident Gardens after I finished it. I thought we had. Now it's been more than a year -- about 50 books ago, according to my GoodReads timeline -- and I struggle to remember enough details for a lengthy post. But I liked that novel very, very much. It made me think I'll have to read Lethem's future fiction, after having given up on the appeal of anything written by Lethem other than his nonfiction.

 

It seemed obvious to me at the time that the book was a pretty withering critique of Communism, but I'm not sure others would agree. 

 

I just looked over the book's Wikipedia listing and was drawn to J. Hoberman's review, which captures my own feelings about the novel pretty well.

 

EDIT: Ah, I did mention is over here, but, again, was only partway through it at the time I posted. I see that J. Henry has posted about it earlier in that same thread, calling it Lethem's best novel. Yes.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0