Friday, July 28, 2006

God, I Love Reading! Today’s Episode: The Disappointment Artist, by Jonathan Lethem

I’ve been reading a ton of great stuff lately, but I think each deserves their own separate post. So today’s edition will feature the abovementioned book of essays by Lethem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve read The Fortress of Solitude, which is great, or his recent story collection Men and Cartoons, great as well, I think both will be further illuminated by reading these essays on various music, art, films, and writers. For one, you get to see a little bit of where the autobiography of the fiction overlaps and where it doesn’t. But of particular interest to me was how these essays were so intensely personal, because they’re extremely thoughtful with regard to the subject matter at hand, and yet in the end, it’s about him in a very direct and important way, and to me it’s what makes them so engaging. Every time I read something like this I nod my head, make sniffy noises like, hmf, why can’t I articulate observations like these about the artists I admire? I think them, but they’re all blurry in my head, and I feel incapable of making anything but the most obvious statements even though I know I get it. And, also, if you happened to have grown up in New York in the seventies, and as a child of quasi-bohemians (his were thoroughly boho – mine were only quasi, or perhaps even faux) it’s impossible not to just be whooshed back to that time, for better or worse. Okay, well, I realize that’s very specific, but he’s just so good at pinpointing what was going on in that world at that time, and how it shaped him, for better and worse, and it’s pretty interesting boho or not. Plus, he coined the word “irv” in place of “oeuvre,” which kills me, because it’s a word that’s quite useful, but one I feel I can only say out loud if I exaggerate it and make it seem as though it has any number of extra syllables.


smussyolay said...

i never know how to say that word, no matter how many times i look it up. yeah, i feel like i have to say..ooh vrah or ooh verh and then i'm still not saying it right. it's complex.

beth b. said...

I'm in the middle of "men and cartoons" right now. (i'm alternating between that and your 'when the messenger is hot'.
I just wanted to say that i really loved 'All This Heavenly Glory'.
To say my jaw hit the ground dozens of times would be an understatement...between the Owen Wilson-izng and tv-perpetually-on-ing and the david foster wallaceing....
it's really really great.
I know i'm either going to sound like a goon or a 12 year old, I'll risk saying that I'm really really looking forward to your next book/collection.
no pressure or anything.
also, if you're ever in teh DC area, please feel free to come on over and watch some Gidget.
beth b.

lb said...

I spent a week in July reading Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, and I never wanted it to end. It manages to be an entirely original tale, while being a perfect homage to the hard-boiled detective novel as well. I lurved it, and have been pushing it on everyone.

Consider yourself pushed!

Betsy said...

Beth - welcome and gosh thanks! Will keep you posted about future DC readings. Would love to - have relatives and friends there, went to college there and haven't been in a long time.
LB - I'll check it out!