I Don’t Like Jonathan Lethem’s Books But That Doesn’t Make Me Stupid, Stupid

Today’s New York Times had a review of Jonathan Lethem’s new book, You Don’t Love Me Yet. I don’t see what the big deal is about Lethem–I thought this book was ably written but lacking vitality, and Motherless Brooklyn made me put it down after about 100 pages because it bored me.

It’s no secret that I like genre fiction, but I also like straight up literary fiction and classic literature. I’m not knocking Lethem because he writes about contemporary people living in big cities–in fact, I’m a contemporary woman who lives in Lethem’s city–but because his writing lacks passion. It’s good, but it’s not alive. Know what I mean? I sometimes wonder if you can love literature so much that you can forget that loving to read is part of it, resulting in books that are technical marvels that practically dare you to keep reading by insinuating if you put it down you’re not hip or cool or smart.

The irony is that I’m putting up this post in the stead of 2 books I read yesterday for work which were installments in a silly popcorn YA series. Why would you want to work so hard to become a writer, only to churn out crap? At least Lethem writes real books. I might think he’s boring, but he’s an honest-to-goodness-writer trying to live by his wits telling stories. I respect him, even though I’m not going to buy his books.

All that said, I’m extremely, extremely impressed with the Promiscuous Materials project. Intellectual property law has become a nightmare these days, and there’s basically no such thing as fair use left in the world, thanks to greedy corporations and overzealous politicians. So it’s really cool to see artists proposing the free interplay of creative ideas within the restrictions that we’re all subject to. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is.

6 thoughts on “I Don’t Like Jonathan Lethem’s Books But That Doesn’t Make Me Stupid, Stupid”

  1. I’m not a huge Lethem fan either, but I always assumed that’s because he writes “guy books.” He writes about things guys care about, and things I don’t particularly. Though he is a good writer.

  2. Hey, so I’m not very prompt with my reply, but I did want to say, I continue to love Lethem more and more. I had a little trouble with a short story collection of his, “Wall of the sky, the wall of the eye”, I just couldn’t get into them. But, Motherless Brooklyn really captivated me with the situational struggles of the tourrette syndrome, and I remember laughing out loud quite a bit at the beginning of the novel. I was disappointed with the last third of the book though. then came The fortress of solitude, which I think is a great book. I’m partially biased because I’m a sucker for a book set in Brooklyn in the 70s, especially with the type of descriptions Lethem gives of the neighborhood identities (and since most of my paintings incorporate some aspect of the urban environment, I found it compelling. But truly, I thought his writing caught the nuance of a time period and of adolescence and of racial tensions so well and so heartfelt. I do love that book. rock on. michelle

  3. I have to say i find him boring as well and have tried chronic city and fortress of solitude read about a hundred pages and just became too bored and apathetic to read on he writes well but its like cold robots instead of people the books are not tight but ramble on and on and on,I found this with wally lamb in the hour i first believed but than in shes come undone it was like a different writer ,i cant finf=d this differentiation with lethem and have to say wont be wasting my time on any more of his books unless as a sedative

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