Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Sunday, December 06, 2009

It is hard for me to say whether Jonathan Lethem's ""The Fortress of Solitude"" resonated with me for any reason apart from this: Lethem's Brooklyn and Letham's pop culture references overlap so nearly perfectly with my own that this magical-realism bildungsroman seems very nearly like a book I might have imagined. I wish I had, flaws and all. There are, I suppose, other books that do some of the the things that this does as well -- stretches reminded me of Richard Price's "The Breaks", to pick an example that nobody I know will know, and I kept being reminded of Michael Chabon, although that comparison is probably more a function of the fact that Lethem, Chabon and I probably have similar record collections than anything else.

Letham is a household favorite, but I'm coming to him a bit late. "As She Crawled Across the Table" is okay, I suppose; the sort of novel that people who really like a particular writer will cite as their favorite, the Steve Forbert of the Lethem shelf, if you know what I mean. And "Motherless Brooklyn" is a detective novel. The fact that it is a detective novel set in a time and a place that I feel a connection to complicates my relationship with the book, but I think it stands on its merits. I think "The Fortress of Solitude" does too, but I wonder to whom one recommends a novel that assumes familiarity with the work of Jack Kirby and Brian Eno. I like a novel that references Black Bolt, but there is a sense in which having that cultural vocabulary available as a shorthand makes what Lethem is doing a pretty specialized sort of book.

I suppose I need to read some more Lethem. I tracked "Fortress of Solitude" down after hearing him interviewed on Bob Edward's program. He's an interesting cat, who works in multiple media, a John Linnell collaborator, for example. I think some further study is in order, and I think I will start with "Gun, with Occasional Music" presently on my nightstand.

UPDATE: Lethem provided a playlist for his new novel here.

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