Synopses & Reviews
A mixture of personal memory and cultural commentary, The Disappointment Artist
offers a series of windows onto the collisions of art, landscape, and personal history that formed Jonathan Lethem's richly imaginative, searingly honest perspective on life as a human creature in the jungle of culture at the end of the twentieth century.
From a confession of the sadness of a "Star Wars nerd" to an investigation into the legacy of a would-be literary titan, Lethem illuminates the process by which a child invents himself as a writer, and as a human being, through a series of approaches to the culture around him. In "The Disappointment Artist," a letter from his aunt, a children's book author, spurs a meditation on the value of writing workshops, the role and influence of reviews, and the uncomfortable fraternity of writers. In "Defending The Searchers" Lethem explains how a passion for the classic John Wayne Western became occasion for a series of minor humiliations. In "Identifying with Your Parents," an excavation of childhood love for superhero comics expands to cover a whole range of nostalgia for a previous generation's cultural artifacts. And "13/1977/21," which begins by recounting the summer he saw Star Wars twenty-one times, "slipping past ushers who'd begun to recognize me...occult as a porn customer," becomes a meditation on the sorrow and solace of the solitary moviegoer.
The Disappointment Artist confirms Lethem's unique ability to illuminate the way life, his and ours, can be read between the lines of art and culture.
"The best thing about Lethem's nonfiction is his willingness... to cop to his sometimes elitist and obsessive-compulsive behavior while at the same time giving ample evidence of his knowledge." Kirkus Reviews
"This is a gem of a book. I can't think of another that captures so well the livid warmth later curdling into embarrassment that characterizes the jejune, impassioned and borderline-pretentious tastes with which we first find, and then lose, ourselves; and it comes illuminated with an adult's forgiving fondness for the cultural Mussolinis we once were, age 15." Tom Shone, The New York Observer
From a confession of the sadness of a ""Star Wars" nerd" to an investigation into the legacy of a would-be literary titan, Lethem illuminates the process by which a child invents himself as a writer, and as a human being, through a series of approaches to the culture around him.
About the Author
Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the bestselling The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named novel of the year by Esquire. He is also the author of two short story collections, Men and Cartoons and The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye, and the editor of The Vintage Book of Amnesia. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Paris Review, and a variety of other periodicals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Maine.
Read an exclusive essay by Jonathan Lethem