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Jonathan Lethem

  • American writer
  • Born February 19, 1964

Jonathan Allen Lethem (; born February 19, 1964) is an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel that achieved mainstream success. In 2003, he published The Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times Best Seller. In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.


The more film I watch, the more John Ford looks like a giant. His politics aren't so good, and you have to learn to accept John Wayne as an actor, but he's a poet in black and white.




I don't paint anymore. I haven't since I abandoned it at 19, in order to begin writing seriously.




I learned to write fiction the way I learned to read fiction - by skipping the parts that bored me.




The book is openly a kind of spiritual autobiography, but the trick is that on any other level it's a kind of insane collage of fragments of memory.




I can't bear the silent ringing in my skull.




In my third novel there is an actual black hole that swallows everything you love.




The arts and a belief in the values of the civil rights movement, in the overwhelming virtue of diversity, these were our religion. My parents worshipped those ideals.




I plan less and less. It's a great benefit of writing lots, that you get good at holding long narratives in your head like a virtual space.




I try not to become too regular an addict of any one subculture.




I keep one simple rule that I only move in one direction - I write the book straight through from beginning to end. By following time's arrow, I keep myself sane.




I work on a laptop specifically so I can work in cafes and pretend I'm part of the human world.




Fantastic writing in English is kind of disreputable, but fantastic writing in translation is the summit.




I'd excluded New York from my writing, and then I came back and I fell in love with it all over again. The energy comes from an absence, that yearning for New York when you are not there.




It was good while it was good.




I got into underground comics fairly early on and kind of wandered away from the superhero stuff, but I was an art student and I was drawing a lot as a kid.




I just noticed recently that in one book after another I seem to find an excuse to find some character who, to put it idiotically simply, is allowed to talk crazy.




I never take any notes or draw charts or make elaborate diagrams, but I hold an image of the shape of a book in my head and work from that mental hologram.




I grew up with an artist father, and my parents' friends were also mainly artists or writers, so he connects what I do with his example.




I'd have been a filmmaker or a cartoonist or something else which extended from the visual arts into the making of narratives if I hadn't been able to shift into fiction.




I've had the odd good luck of starting slowly and building gradually, something few writers are allowed anymore. As a result I've seen each of my books called the breakthrough. And each was, in its way.




It was only as I wrote about it that I began to find paths of access to feelings that were intolerable to me then.




The past is still visible. The buildings haven't changed, the layout of the streets hasn't changed. So memory is very available to me as I walk around.




Nerds are just deep, and neurotic, fans. Needy fans. We're all nerds, on one subject or another.




It's now expected of me that I will defy expectation, so I really generally seem to be free to write what I want.




I've never related to the work geek at all-it sounds much more horrible than nerd. Like a freak biting a chicken's head off in a sideshow.




Discomfort is very much part of my master plan.




Comics? Honestly, that's more a matter of nostalgia for me. I think most of that energy has gone to my love of literature and my love of film.




What's lucky about my career in general is that I stumbled into what every writer most wants. Not repeating myself and doing strange things has become my trademark.




I had always wanted to be a writer who confused genre boundaries and who was read in multiple contexts.



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