JONATHAN LETHEM’S LATEST QUARTET

28686837Christopher Wood at The Quarterly Conversation:

With A Gambler’s Anatomy, Jonathan Lethem has written yet another quite ambitious novel that challenges American fiction’s low tolerance for thinking-as-art. This now makes four in a row that have either risked sinking from bravura and scope or have appeared too light and clever on the surface to be matched seriously with earlier feats. For instance, rather than Chronic City being a kitschy map for traversing Web-dominant culture, it tries to salvage what’s left of the literary and humane while honoring skeptical avant-garde traditions that inherently distrust the novel form.

Up until The Fortress of Solitude, admirers could content themselves, to a degree, with parodied tributes and deconstructions of old styles without having to imagine the positive role Lethem charted for novels in the future. As described in his essay on White Elephant and Termite postures attempted as a novelist, his books in recent years puzzle through this dialectic of positive and deconstructive values, and A Gambler’s Anatomy continues the course.

Author interviews support a first impression that Gambler was quickly dashed off, except that at least two of its long scenes appear as carefully worked as any section of the previous “big books,” Dissident Gardens (2013) or Chronic City (2009). A better way of setting A Gambler’s Anatomy apart from the other two is by noting the more surfacy, cinematic strategy of the prose.

more here.

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