Synopses & Reviews
Jonathan Lethem's new collection of stories is a feast for his fans and the perfect introduction for new readers nine fantastic, amusing, poignant tales written in a dizzying variety of styles, as Lethem samples high and low culture to create fictional worlds that are utterly original. Longtime readers will recognize echoes of Lethem's novels in all these pieces narrators who can't stop babbling, hapless would-be detectives, people with unusual powers that do them no good, hot-blooded academics, and characters whose clever repartee masks lovelorn desperation as they negotiate both the stumbling path of romance and the bittersweet obligations of friendship.
- "The Vision" is a story about drunken neighborhood parlor games, boys who dress up as superheroes, and the perils of snide curiosity.
- "Access Fantasy" is part social satire, part weird detective story. Evoking Lethem's earliest work, it conjures up a world divided between people who have apartments and people trapped in an endless traffic jam behind The One-Way Permeable Barrier.
- "The Spray" is a simple story about how people in love deal with their past. A magical spray is involved.
- "Vivian Relf" is a tour de force about loss. A man meets a woman at a party; they're sure they've met before, but they haven't. As the years progress this strangely haunting encounter comes to define the narrator's life.
- "The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door" is a Borgesian tale that features suicidal sheep. (This story won a Pushcart Prize when first published in Conjunctions.)
- "Super Goat Man" is a savagely funny exposé of the failures of the sixties baby boomers, and of their children.
Sparkling with the off-beat humor and subtle insights, Men and Cartoons
is a welcome addition to the shelf of the writer "whose bold imagination and sheer love of words defy all forms and expectations and place him among his country's foremost novelists" (Salon
"No story is less than intelligent, though the author's fans will miss the deeper explorations he makes in his longer works....[P]leasant enough, but newcomers to Lethem would do better to start with Motherless Brooklyn." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he stories assembled here feel like they were written long before Lethem found his mojo: Most of them end two or three pages before impact, leaving these disappointed and doubting men to evaporate into the atmosphere before finding any sense of finality." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Funny, strange, and sometimes impenetrable....[T]he stories never feel heavy or particularly dark, the writing is playful, and the narrators are keenly aware of the absurd." Library Journal
"So is Lethem forging ahead in the mainstream or crossing back to genre ground? In these nine stories, both." Booklist
"While some of Lethem's work...seems as glib and tired as the word postmodernism itself, his best novels and stories are elevated by his ability to particularize his artificial landscapes and to humanize their inhabitants." Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review
Lethem's new collection of stories is a feast for his fans and the perfect introduction for new readers a smorgasbord of fantastic, amusing, poignant tales written in a dizzying variety of styles.
A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons
contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's vision. Sometimes firmly grounded in reality, and other times spinning off into utterly original imaginary worlds, this book brings together marvelous characters with incisive social commentary and thought provoking allegories.
A visionary and creative collection that only Jonathan Lethem could have produced, the Vintage edition features two stories not published in the hardcover edition, "The Shape We're In" and "Interview with the Crab.
About the Author
Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named novel of the year by Esquire. His stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, McSweeny's, Tin House, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and a variety of other periodicals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.