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2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Dissident Gardens

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Dissident Gardens Cover

ISBN13: 9780385534932
ISBN10: 0385534930
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

An epic exploration of American radicalism through the eyes of a firecracker matriarch and her discontented brood of children, comrades, and lovers, Dissident Gardens might just be the next Big American Novel.
Recommended by Rhianna Walton, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A dazzling novel from one of our finest writers — an epic yet intimate family saga about three generations of all-American radicals.

At the center of Jonathan Lethem’s superb new novel stand two extraordinary women. Rose Zimmer, the aptly nicknamed Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, is an unreconstructed Communist and mercurial tyrant who terrorizes her neighborhood and her family with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her brilliant and willful daughter, Miriam, is equally passionate in her activism, but flees Rose’s suffocating influence and embraces the Age of Aquarius counterculture of Greenwich Village.

Both women cast spells that entrance or enchain the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her nephew, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinging husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. These flawed, idealistic people all struggle to follow their own utopian dreams in an America where radicalism is viewed with bemusement, hostility, or indifference.

As the decades pass—from the parlor communism of the ’30s, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, ragged ’70s communes, the romanticization of the Sandinistas, up to the Occupy movement of the moment — we come to understand through Lethem’s extraordinarily vivid storytelling that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal.

Brilliantly constructed as it weaves across time and among characters, Dissident Gardens is riotous and haunting, satiric and sympathetic — and a joy to read.

Review:

"While collective memory might offer some hazy grasp of McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklists, all but forgotten is the real American Communist Party and its Depression-era heyday. In this epic and complex new novel, Lethem considers what happened to the ACP, as well as some other questions, about maternal isolation and filial resentment. The book begins with the case of Rose Zimmer, in Queens, New York, who was officially ousted from the party in 1955 for sleeping with a black cop. Rose's daughter, Miriam, is a teenager at the time, and she soon discovers the pull of Greenwich Village bohemians. Rose's and Miriam's stories are interwoven, as the narrative moves back and forth in time, uncovering Rose's doomed relationships, as well as Miriam's fiery determination to escape her mother's rage. Miriam's son, Sergius, also comes into the story — as a child and an adult, juxtaposing three generations — along with Cicero Lookins, the son of Rose's black cop boyfriend, an unexpected member of the family by proxy and the most interesting character of the book by far. Cicero formed an unexpected relationship with the bitter, Jewish woman as a kid, and, in turn, became a beneficiary of her intellect. All together, the cast makes for a heady, swirly mix of fascinating, lonely people. Lethem's writing, as always, packs a witty punch. The epoch each character inhabits is artfully etched and the book is as illuminating of 20th-century American history as it is of the human burden of overcoming alienation. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"While collective memory might offer some hazy grasp of McCarthyism and the Hollywood black-lists, all but forgotten is the real American Communist Party and its Depression-era heyday. In this epic and complex new novel, Lethem considers what happened to the ACP, as well as some other questions, about material isolation and filial resentment....The cast makes for a heady, swirly mix of fascinating, lonely people. Lethem's writing, as always, packs a witty punch. The epoch each character inhabits is artfully etched and the book is as illuminating of 20th-century American history as it is of the human burden of overcoming alienation." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations and the boroughs of New York....The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth." Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Jonathan Lethem is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Chronic City, The Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, and the nonfiction collection The Ecstasy of Influence, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Lethem’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times, among other publications.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lukas, January 4, 2014 (view all comments by lukas)
"There was music in the cafes at night, revolution in the air."-Bob Dylan Jonathan Lethem's newest novel, his ninth, is also one of his best. I say this as someone who has mixed feelings about him as a writer, although I prefer him to other Jonathans like Franzen and Safron Foer. This might be his most direct and sincere novel, focusing on a family of Jewish radicals in NYC over the course of many decades. The themes of leftist politics, folk music, Judaism, New York City, culture and identity are handled well, but are also very familiar and I wouldn't say he does anything innovative or revealing with them. Still, it's an enjoyable, interesting read and its recreation of the musical and political stew of the late 60s will appeal to a wide audience. Check out "Inside Llewyn Davis" for a darker and more provocative look at a similar environment (sans the politics though).
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akid, September 17, 2013 (view all comments by akid)
Another quirky and beautifully written novel from esteemed Brooklyn novelist Jonathan Lethem. His new book, surprisingly focuses on three generations of American communists in Queens and NYC. The novel's structure seems like an interlinked collection of short stories that highlight indelible moments of the characters' lives against the backdrop of turbulent times in the 20th century.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385534932
Author:
Lethem, Jonathan
Publisher:
Doubleday
Author:
Lethem, Jonathan
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20130910
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
384

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Related Subjects

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Urban Life

Dissident Gardens Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Doubleday - English 9780385534932 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

An epic exploration of American radicalism through the eyes of a firecracker matriarch and her discontented brood of children, comrades, and lovers, Dissident Gardens might just be the next Big American Novel.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "While collective memory might offer some hazy grasp of McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklists, all but forgotten is the real American Communist Party and its Depression-era heyday. In this epic and complex new novel, Lethem considers what happened to the ACP, as well as some other questions, about maternal isolation and filial resentment. The book begins with the case of Rose Zimmer, in Queens, New York, who was officially ousted from the party in 1955 for sleeping with a black cop. Rose's daughter, Miriam, is a teenager at the time, and she soon discovers the pull of Greenwich Village bohemians. Rose's and Miriam's stories are interwoven, as the narrative moves back and forth in time, uncovering Rose's doomed relationships, as well as Miriam's fiery determination to escape her mother's rage. Miriam's son, Sergius, also comes into the story — as a child and an adult, juxtaposing three generations — along with Cicero Lookins, the son of Rose's black cop boyfriend, an unexpected member of the family by proxy and the most interesting character of the book by far. Cicero formed an unexpected relationship with the bitter, Jewish woman as a kid, and, in turn, became a beneficiary of her intellect. All together, the cast makes for a heady, swirly mix of fascinating, lonely people. Lethem's writing, as always, packs a witty punch. The epoch each character inhabits is artfully etched and the book is as illuminating of 20th-century American history as it is of the human burden of overcoming alienation. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "While collective memory might offer some hazy grasp of McCarthyism and the Hollywood black-lists, all but forgotten is the real American Communist Party and its Depression-era heyday. In this epic and complex new novel, Lethem considers what happened to the ACP, as well as some other questions, about material isolation and filial resentment....The cast makes for a heady, swirly mix of fascinating, lonely people. Lethem's writing, as always, packs a witty punch. The epoch each character inhabits is artfully etched and the book is as illuminating of 20th-century American history as it is of the human burden of overcoming alienation."
"Review" by , "A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations and the boroughs of New York....The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth."
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