My Amazon cart is getting heavy! Now I get to start adding up the weights of these books to make sure I can still afford to check my luggage!
Jonathan Lethem, The Disappointment Artist: Essays
Really liked this. Like so many artist memoirs, it’s a book about a young artist discovering himself through—surprise!—art. (Is there another story for the young artist? A few, probably…)
Two excerpts I wanted to call out. The first, from “Identifying with Your Parents, or The Return of the King,” is about tracing influence:
I suffered a kind of nerdish fever for authenticity and origins of all kinds, one which led me into some very strange cultural places. The notion of “influence” compelled me, at irrational depts of my being. Any time I heard mention that, say, David Bowie was only really imitating Anthony Newley, I immediately lost interest in David Bowie and went looking for the source, sometimes with the pitiable results that the example suggests. So I was always moving backward through time…
The second, from “”The Beards,” about writing the books you want to read:
When I first began to write fiction, at eighteen, I conceived that I would write the novels that Philip K. Dick hadn’t lived to write—that I would continue his work rather than begin my own. Of course, I now think that Philip K. Dick probably lived to write any novel he was capable of writing, as well as a few he wasn’t, but at the time it seemed to me tragic that dozens more didn’t exist for me to read.
Lethem’s new essay collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, is at the top of my Christmas list.