I love the idea of Jonathan Lethem. Reading about him and looking through his list of writings is something I find downright thrilling (“What imagination! What lunacy!”). Shamefully, however, out of all the fiction he’s published, the only one I’ve actually read is “The Elvis National Theater Of Okinawa.” It’s a wild story I really enjoyed, but it’s really short and co-authored, so I can’t really say how representative it is of Lethem, especially since his work just seems so wide-ranging.
“Dismantling Rushmores: Field Notes From The Life Of A 21st Century Novelist” isn’t fiction, but when a link to this appeared on my Twitter feed, I couldn’t resist clicking on it and feeling, well, thrilled to see him open with a discussion of Manny Farber’s “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art,” because hey, what’s this, and also because Lethem’s first sentence is something I agree with 100%. Now that I think about it, it’s thrilling because it’s a little scary.
The rest of the essay is just as engaging, to me especially. Lethem troubles what we mean when we say “pop culture” and ends with what would be called, if it were badly written, a rant against “the crime of Literary Rushmore.” Never mind the tiny regret I felt when I realized he was referring to Rushmore as in Mount rather than the film I’ve been itching to re-watch; Lethem’s essay was a fun read, for me anyway.
(And just as I finished reading this, my Twitter feed throws me an interview. This I haven’t read yet, though I’m about to.)