The latest in a series of occasional posts on authors who praise each other’s books.
Jonathan Lethem on Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book:
“Conversational, embracing, and casually erudite, Laura Miller’s superb long essay is the kind that comes along too rarely, a foray into the garden of one book that opens to the whole world of reading, becoming in the process a subtle reader’s memoir, and manifesto.”
Laura Miller in naming Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City one of the five best works of fiction of 2009 in Salon:
“A great New York novel should aim for the universal by way of the parochial. The Manhattanites in Lethem’s near-future/alternative-now metropolis experience all the crises and travails of 21st-century life in a slightly more concentrated form. (It takes a novelist of exceptional talent and nerve to make you believe that matters of moment can hang on the outcome of an eBay auction.) … On this you can count: Chronic City is the real thing.”
Lethem also appeared in the “Backscratching in Our Time” on Oct. 30, 2009. The series was inspired by “Logrolling in Our Time” in the late Spy magazine. You can nominate authors for it by using the e-mail address on the “Contact” page on this site.
Later this month the Literary Review will announce the winner of its annual Bad Sex award, intended to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description … and to discourage it” in modern literary novels. Last year the judges gave the main prize to Rachel Johnson’s Shire Hell and a lifetime achievement award to John Updike.
Who will win the Bad Sex Award this year? Perhaps Jonathan Lethem for the following lines from Chronic City, a novel of New York during a financial – but not necessarily sexual — crisis. The excerpt below omits a half dozen lines, marked by ellipses, that might not cross the spam filters at libraries. You can find the missing lines by using the “Search Inside” tool on Amazon.com or another site to search for “Richard’s crotch throbbed.”
“At two that same morning he’d had Georgina swinging in a rope chair she’d had installed at his whimsical suggestion, hung from a bolted hook on her ceiling, her legs spilling over the sides of the mesh seat in which her splendid bottom lay helpless to his savage ministrations. The situation was wildly odd and erotic. …
“Remembering it, Richard’s crotch throbbed, grew hotter, the itching more intense.”
Are these lines purple enough to win a Bad Sex Award? If you can’t decide, you may want to compare them with past winners or read some of my comments on the longlisting of Ian McEwan for the 2007 Bad Sex Award. My review of Chronic City appeared yesterday.
I’m reading Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City and trying to decide whether to finish it. The narrator is a male New Yorker engaged to a female astronaut trapped on the International Space Station, and I have an irrational fear that the theme of the novel is going to turn out to be, “Women really are from Venus.” Also the novelist Mark Lindquist wrote in a review of the book in the Seattle Times, “You can find more plot in a Jethro Tull album.”