I’m quite excited about Jonathan Lethem. I should be careful, but could he be a new favourite author?
There needs to be a peppier term for ‘general fiction’. We have sci-fi, crime, horror, comedy, transgressional, historical, gay, etcetra, etcetra, but we don’t have a snappy term for the other stuff, or more accurately, the stuff that is not ‘other stuff’. ‘Other stuff’ have names. (There’s literary fiction, but that’s more a comment on the style than the content.) I bring this up because I want to tell you how Lethem mixes genres, but the genres he mixes are science fiction and general fiction, and without a more specific term, that just sounds like he writes science fiction.
Until very recently I didn’t even realise Lethem wrote science fiction at all. I read Fortress of Solitude some years ago, and despite the sci-fi title, mostly it was a story about two kids growing up in Brooklyn, about race, graffiti and the city. Admittedly there was a ring that gave them the ability to fly but it featured so rarely that it almost seemed out of place. Then a few weeks ago, I peered again at his shelf in the library in my search for not-just-the-usual and was surprised by all these blurbs teasing stories of futuristic cities, post-apocalyptic America and the colonisation of other planets, but all grounded firmly in the human element. It sounded too good to be true.
I love stuff that is difficult to categorise, stuff that is difficult to shelf. I picked up Amnesia Moon, a careful toe in the water. There was a whiff here of something special. But, again, I should be careful. I thought Fortress of Solitude was okay, but I didn’t love it. And as for interesting blurbs, we all know there are plenty of authors who would do well to restrict themselves to only writing blurbs. Which one is Lethem? I guess I’ll find out.
-Reading the Why