Jonathan Lethem (YGtCTO Words #89)

Motherless Brooklyn

Book written by Jonathan Lethem

Here is what I’m currently reading:

I mention this for two reasons: 1) I think it’s interesting how reading evolves when you start reading like a writer; and 2) I want to highlight just how difficult it is for a book to stand out for me.

I was watching this documentary the other day about the working ways of some of the big-name artists in Manhattan around 1970. One of the things that stood out for me was how casually they talked about their excursions to see the work of other artists. They were willing to drop everything to go see something that might be good and interesting and inspirational and innovative. Basically, they never stopped searching and learning. Yet, they talked about this as part and parcel of being an artist.

Nick Hornby has written a monthly column chronicling the books he has read every month. He talks about the books that he stopped reading, also, but usually he gets through a few. Clive James has written about sitting in coffeehouses with a pile of books and reading from one and then another. (He also describes working his way through books in multiple foreign languages with the aid of a translation dictionary. I can’t say that I see myself doing that.)

Jonathan Lethem

As you might imagine,
the need to up my reading game became apparent. I don’t know that I’m doing a much better job of selection and focus, but I’m not shying away from work that I would have considered a slog before. They just get mixed in with the rest and it all winds up in the same place anyway. Hornby reminded me that it is okay to abandon books that are not speaking to me, but I don’t run into that too much. (He also got me reading Muriel Spark, which I think I’ve done enough after five novels. That will leave you a little twisted.)

Some books do stand out. It’s often the ones that I already foresee as promising- usually by authors with whom I am familiar. I don’t mean that I only know their name, which was the case with Lethem. But, Motherless Brooklyn has somehow boggled me. I love every minute spent with it. And I strongly suspect other people will feel differently (despite the acclaim that it received), which is fine.

Moreover, I haven’t finished it yet, which is a first for this series. For all I know, it will just peter out and I’ll be shrugging about this book next week. I very much doubt it, because it has already seeped into my subconscious. Right now, this is a top five novel for me. That’s when someone asks you how much you like it and you say “Top 5” and they ask what the others are and you say, “Well, Martin Chuzzlewit is number one” and then you rattle off a couple others that you think they might like or at least not lose respect for you for liking.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 34 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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