What’s a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what’s contemporary culture supposed to do with novelists? In The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the “white elephant” role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers.
A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he’s written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring, and Marlon Brando, as well as on a shelf’s worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Paula Fox, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and others. And, writing about Brooklyn, his father, and his sojourn through two decades of writing, Lethem sheds an equally strong light on himself.
"Conceptual ambition, sense of purpose and a fan’s evangelical devotion distinguish this collection from the typical novelist’s gathering of nonfiction miscellany.....impressively rich....In addition to being a writer who blurs the distinction between genre fiction (sci-fi, detective, western) and postmodern literature (a term he questions), Lethem writes with a commitment to sharing his enthusiasm for whatever obsesses him....While the results illuminate his formative influences and artistic development, they also cast considerable light on the culture at large, which is both reflected in Lethem’s work and has profoundly shaped it.....Intensifying that intimacy, he shares his complicated relationships.... high ambitions and a strong sense of purpose."- (Kirkus Reviews)
"Peppery nonfiction....provocative tour de force....thoughtful and rambunctious....dynamically juxtaposed and connected....to create a jazzy, patchwork memoir....hilarious....fresh, erudite, zestful, funny frolic in the great fields of creativity." (Booklist)
“Hefty and remarkable.....These byways, all of which make room for eccentric flights as well as proper essays, augment the charm and impact of what Lethem prefers to call an 'autobiographical collage,' a phrase he lifts from Vonnegut. This influence seems only natural, for dominating all is Lethem's prime concern always: the novel....generous....exciting....openhearted, unconventional." (The New York Times Book Review)
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