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"Not everything needed to rise to converge: It could just drift together into the indiscernible middle, and bewilder you."
- Jonathan Letham, A Gambler's Anatomy
The more I read of Jonathan Lethem, the more difficult it becomes to separate him from Michael Chabon. They seem like literary twins writing around the same hipster Brooklyn/Berkeley geography. This novel seems grown from Pynchon, Hesse, Carey, Dostoevsky, Dumas, Leroux, Nabokov, Mann, and of course Chabon.
I probably sound more irritated than I am, it just seriously is odd to read a book that centers around a hipster shop on Telegraph Avenue, written by a Jewish writer, born in the early 60s, who loves comic books, vinyl, flowery prose, etc., and discover it wasn't Telegraph Avenue. Perhaps, I should just accept that when I buy Lethem, I might get Chabon and when I buy Chabon, I might get Lethem and move on. At this point, I'm pretty good with prose, but if you did the Pepsi/Coke challenge with me on Chabon/Lethem, I'm screwed.
The plot was interesting, the prose was above average, yet the book wasn't nearly Lethem's best I'm still not pissed about reading it. There WAS something there. It was good. The chapter told from the perspective of the brain surgeon (Dr. Noah Behringer, a Hendrix obscessed "mechanic of the meat") was one of my favorites and might just have earned the book an extra star all on its own. Obviously, this novel doesn't approach Dostoevsky's The Gambler, Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave, Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, or Carey's Oscar and Lucinda in terms of literary writing about games, chance, love, and life; but if you are seeking interesting hipster dialogue and the occasional kinky scene that includes a mask, well, buy the book and keep your Eyes Wide Shut and one hand on your wallet and you other hand on your pills.
16 of 21 people found this review helpful
this is a rather literary novel. It does have some genre conventions of Science Fiction and mystery. I don't typically enjoy literary novels very much, but I did enjoy this one. Unfortunately, I found the ending quite flat. It makes sense within the conventions of an intelligent and intellectual piece, but for the plot junkie in me it was not great.