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As She Climbed Across the Tableby Jonathan Lethem
"After deciding to recommend this book, I recently reread it, and it's absolutely as funny, sweet, and unique as I remembered it. As She Climbed Across the Table takes place in the world of the academy; the main character researches the academy itself the relationships between departments, the textuality of peer reviews. This setting, particularly in the latter half of the book, creates dialogue that, for me, hearkens back to White Noise and The Verificationist extraordinarily funny, half-satire and half-revelation. Lethem is dealing with many subjects here, including physics, deconstruction, and "blindsight," but the theme of conversation and communication, spoken or not, moves throughout the book tying character to character to well, universe. Jonathan Lethem is known for writing in a variety of genres detective stories in the future, Westerns on other planets but this book is primarily a love story. The characters, sometimes despite themselves, become real and urgent to the reader, yet the clean and playful prose gives the book a welcome lightheartedness. If you've only read Motherless Brooklyn, or have somehow missed Lethem altogether, this book is a great place to start."
Ditto what Jill said. I can't recall why I decided to read As She Climbed Across the Table I hadn't read Lethem before but I devoured the novel in just one or two sittings and almost immediately began advertising it to friends as the most fun I'd had with a book in months.
Synopses & Reviews
Philip is in love with Alice. As the novel opens, he is beginning to lose her. Not to another man, as he fears, but to, literally, nothing. Alice is a physicist, and a team at the University where both she and Philip work has created a hole, a vacuum, a doorway of nothingness inside the laboratory. They call it "Lack." Alice becomes obsessed with Lack, as Philip is obsessed by Alice.
The novel is at the same time an astute and wise portrait of unrequited love (albeit of a very unusual kind) a hilarious academic parody, a novel of ideas and a social satire. It is utterly original, but in the school of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Katherine Dunn, and David Foster Wallace.
Passion, humor, yearning and knowledge, blended together in a suspenseful love story that could be characterized as "American Magical Realism."
"Exceptionally clever.... A book of compelling ideas, of intellectual conflict, of human frailty and desire. And it's funny." Dallas Morning News
"An oddball tour de force." Entertainment Weekly
"A bravura send-up of academic foibles." The New Yorker
"Jonathan Lethem has succeeded in delivering a wonderland on this side of the looking glass." San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Lethem is opening blue sky for American fiction.... He is rapidly evolving into his own previously uncataloged species." Village Voice Literary Supplement
"Crisp, ecstatic chapters and wonderfully likable characters make this parody of academia wickedly fun." St. Petersburg Times
"Wickedly funny." Columbus Dispatch
Anna Karenina left her husband for a dashing officer. Lady Chatterley left hers for the gamekeeper. Now Alice Coombs has her boyfriend for nothing … nothing at all. Just how that should have come to pass and what Philip Engstrand, Alice’s spurned boyfriend, can do about it is the premise for this vertiginous speculative romance by the acclaimed author of Gun, with Occasional Music.
Alice Coombs is a particle physicist, and she and her colleagues have created a void, a hole in the universe, that they have taken to calling Lack. But Lack is a nullity with taste—tastes; it absorbs a pomegranate, light bulbs, an argyle sock; it disdains a bow tie, an ice ax, and a scrambled duck egg. To Alice, this selectivity translates as an irresistible personality. To Philip, it makes Lack an unbeatable rival, for how can he win Alice back from something that has no flaws—because it has no qualities? Ingenious, hilarious, and genuinely mind-expanding, As She Climbed Across the Table is the best boy-meets-girl-meets-void story ever written.
About the Author
Jonathan Lethem is the author of the novels Gun, with Occasional Music; Amnesia Moon; Girl in Landscape; and Motherless Brooklyn, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also written a collection of stories, The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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