Friday, October 23, 2009

TIME magazine author interview

This is part of a question and answer session with novelist Jonathan Lethem (Chronic City) that appeared in Time magazine 19 October issue.Author pic right by Fred Benenson

Q. You're doing a marathon reading of your book — eight nights, seven venues, over the next two months. Is it even worth it these days for authors to do readings unless they're going to be unique or kooky in some way? Readings are usually ... deadly.

It can be kind of a strange ritual. I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm permanently in a kind of moderately bad faith as a giver of readings, because I'm not a great fan of them. I don't think of that as a hot night out. So I usually try to make it something a little more special. Although this marathon in some ways is kind of a selfish thing. I hope it's terrific for other people, but it really was another way of getting out of the robotic loop of just reading the same chapter over and over again. I wanted to make the readings mean a little more.
Q.Is it true you own a bookstore?

Yeah. I'm part proprietor of a small used-book store in Maine. I don't really own the building. I guess I sort of own the books until someone comes along and buys them. I'm like the junior partner in a very funky clubhouse of a used-book store. It's something that makes me very happy.
It seems like a defiantly optimistic thing to do these days, when all anyone can talk about is the decline of the printed form.It seems like it should be that kind of gesture, but it never crossed my mind that it was an expression of defiance. If it's taken as that, that's great. I did it for the pleasure. It didn't have to do anything with my career or the Internet or the publishing world. It was just to be handling the books. I worked in used-book stores for 15 years on and off. That was the only work I ever had before becoming a full-time writer. I have a lot of osmotic book knowledge just from handling books I didn't ever read. Turning them over in my hands, trying to figure out where they came from and why they exist and whether they should be priced at $4 or $6.
Check the full interview at Time.

And for your interest here is the back cover blurb from his latest novel:
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem - Random House
The acclaimed author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude returns with a roar with this gorgeous, searing portrayal of Manhattanites wrapped in their own delusions, desires, and lies.
Chase Insteadman, a handsome, inoffensive fixture on Manhattan’s social scene, lives off residuals earned as a child star on a beloved sitcom called Martyr & Pesty. Chase owes his current social cachet to an ongoing tragedy much covered in the tabloids: His teenage sweetheart and fiancée, Janice Trumbull, is trapped by a layer of low-orbit mines on the International Space Station, from which she sends him rapturous and heartbreaking love letters. Like Janice, Chase is adrift, she in Earth’s stratosphere, he in a vague routine punctuated by Upper East Side dinner parties.
Into Chase’s cloistered city enters Perkus Tooth, a wall-eyed free-range pop critic whose soaring conspiratorial riffs are fueled by high-grade marijuana, mammoth cheeseburgers, and a desperate ache for meaning. Perkus’s countercultural savvy and voracious paranoia draw Chase into another Manhattan, where questions of what is real, what is fake, and who is complicit take on a life-shattering urgency. Along with Oona Laszlo, a self-loathing ghostwriter, and Richard Abneg, a hero of the Tompkins Square Park riot now working as a fixer for the billionaire mayor, Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the answers to several mysteries that seem to offer that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought: Truth.
Like Manhattan itself, Jonathan Lethem’s masterpiece is beautiful and tawdry, tragic and forgiving, devastating and antic, a stand-in for the whole world and a place utterly unique.

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