Jonathan Lethem has been much hyped and fairly well praised. Any writer who is essentially a science fiction writer but who is not marketed as such obviously has something going for him. Lethem undoubtedly has a fascinating and weird imagination. Unfortunately, his writing skills leave much to be desired. His characters are wooden and uninteresting. His plots are unconvincing. Reading Lethem is rather like finding a very attractive sex partner but, when it comes to the clinch, you both leave each other very unsatisfied. Frankly, when reading Lethem, I had no desire to see what happened next, no interest in the characters. I just wanted it to be over so I could read a real book.
Perhaps it’s me. He has certainly been well promoted. Gun, with Occasional Music has been optioned for a film, though they seem to be taking their time about making it. He has clearly been influenced by the right authors – Philip K. Dick, J G Ballard, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut and co. He went to Bennington with Bret Easton Ellis/, Jill Eisenstadt, and Donna Tartt. But none of this makes for a great writer. He’s fashionable. He’s trendy. He will fade away.
Lethem was born in 1964 in Brooklyn, His father was a painter and his mother a political activist. He went to Bennington College but dropped out, hitchhiking around the United States and working in book shops, before becoming a successful writer. In 2011, he became Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, replacing David Foster Wallace.
Overrated Writers, Part Four: Cormac McCarthy and Jonathan Lethem
The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism (article by Lethem)
1994 Gun, with Occasional Music (novel)
1995 Amnesia Moon (novel)
1997 The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye (stories)
1997 As She Climbed Across the Table (novel)
1998 Girl in Landscape (novel)
1999 Motherless Brooklyn (novel)
1999 Kafka Americana (with Carter Scholz) (stories)
2003 The Fortress of Solitude (novel)
2004 Men and Cartoons (stories)
2005 The Disappointment Artist (non-fiction)
2006 Believeniks!: 2005: The Year We Wrote a Book About the Mets (with Christopher Sorrentinom, as Ivan Felt and Harris Conklin) (novel)
2006 How We Got Insipid (stories)
2007 You Don’t Love Me Yet (novel)
2009 Chronic City (novel)
2010 They Live (non-fiction)
2011 The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
2012 Talking Heads’ Fear of Music
2013 Dissident Gardens (novel)
2015 Lucky Alan And Other Stories (stories)
2016 A Gambler’s Anatomy (novel)
2017 The Blot (novel)
2017 More Alive and Less Lonely : On Books and Writers (literature)
2018 The Feral Detective (novel)
2020 The Arrest (novel)
2021 The Arrest (novel)