October 24, 2005

Jonathan Lethem

If anyone’s wondering, my daughter’s out of daycare so I don’t have much time in front of the computer--which is probably a good thing. Since she’s turned three, she’s stopped taking her afternoon nap, which was when I was able to work.

In the meantime, here’s some Tree Porn.

And some more tree porn: There was a recent interview with Jonathan Lethem that made me feel like an idiot. I haven’t read Jonathan Lethem yet because…I haven’t gotten around to it yet. He waxed on about Philip Roth and said things like this:

American writing, its roots in Poe, Twain, Melville, and extended through Faulkner and, for gawd’s sake, everyone else—is encompassing, courageous, omnivorous. It gobbles contradiction, keeps its eyes open, engages with the culture at every possible level. But boundaries being crossed make the inhabitants of the increasingly isolated castle of the status quo all the more anxious. If we’re free to use these methods, allowed to talk about everything we know, if we are allowed to describe the world of advertising, the world of capitalism, the world of pop culture, the actual world where the elements described as of high- and low-brow are in a constant inextricable mingling—if we let down our guard, where will our status emblems be? What credentials will we burnish? How will we know we are different from the rabble outside the gates?

Again, it’s sheerly class anxiety that is expressed in these attacks. And, as well, a fundamental discomfort with the creative act, with the innately polymorphous, the innately acquisitive, curious, exuberant and engaged tendencies in the creative act itself.

The interview made me feel stupid--that he could spout like this off the top of his head. As if he’s read every book ever written.

Books I’ve read by Philip Roth:

Goodbye, Columbus
Portnoy’s Complaint
When She Was Good
The Ghost Writer
Sabbath’s Theater
The Professor of Desire
The Plot Against America

Maybe I’m not a complete idiot. Maybe Jonathan Lethem is very practiced at talking this way because he’s had hundreds of interviews and discussions at high-brow cocktail parties. Probably. Now I feel better.

(I found the Lethem interview at the Ash Thomas blog--because I’m a site referral addict. Someone clicked on "Ash" in Technorati, for whatever reason, and I found the blog. I’m sure this interview is on dozens of other litblogs. I also saw it on Mumpsimus.)


Empty Drum said...

Based on that Lethem quote you provided, I can't think of anything nice to say about him.

So instead I will say something nice about you, followed by a non-sequitur.

HB, you are nothing if not stupid!

Satanic thinking caused the Titanic sinking.

Thanks, SECDB

Benny said...

Of all the Jonathans, Lethem is probably my least favorite, but his jacket photo still hangs in my locker, all smudged with lipstick kisses.

I think you're dead-on about whole paragraphs of practiced conversation. Mon amour was just as reassured/crestfallen when he realized Christopher Hitchens couldn't always be so smooth- that he repeats things verbatim, quoting himself from articles and essays. Written author interviews are somewhat sketchy because the interviewer is almost always a writer/editor at heart and it's easy to clean up the spoken word on paper. And email exchange interviews are just ridiculous!

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William MacDonald

Henry Baum said...

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Natalia said...

I can't get into to Philip Roth. The attraction is not there. The titles themselves make me want to run away screaming.

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