If you haven't been paying close attention, it's easy to miss just how prolific Jonathan Lethem has been. Over the course of his career, he's written several early, genre-defying novels (including Gun With Occasional Music
, Amnesia Moon
, and Girl in Landscape
) and better-known later novels, like the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Motherless Brooklyn
, The Fortress of Solitude
, and Dissident Gardens
(to name but a few). But he's also published five collections of short stories, a novella, two books of essays, and a comics series, along with editing and co-editing anthologies on music, science fiction, and memory loss. His wide range of interests and obsessions are part of the great pleasure of his work, informing it all with fascinating juxtapositions and an incredibly generous, intelligent voice.
His newest work, A Gambler's Anatomy
, is quintessential Lethem – Alexander Bruno, a good-looking, charming backgammon gambler who believes he's telepathic, is felled in Berlin by a blot in his vision that turns out to be an almost inoperable tumor. The only surgeon who might be able to help him is Behringer, back in Berkeley, a city and a time Bruno's been working to forget. So back Bruno heads, with the help of a childhood friend/nemesis who has become a prime agent of gentrification and capitalism. Throw in an anarchist burger cook, a German woman of many masks, and the nemesis's repartee-wielding girlfriend, and A Gambler's Anatomy
is, as Kirkus
describes it in a starred review, "[a] tragicomic novel [in which] nothing is ever exactly as it seems." Whether you're a devoted fan or you haven't read Lethem in a while (or ever), his new book is a great introduction to "the best absurdist working in American writing right now" (The Guardian
How did A Gambler's Anatomy
I've loved gambling stories as a kind of narrative — one of those secret genres that doesn't have a bookstore section for it. I'm always identifying these kinds of narrative conditions that have really strong tropes or motifs built into them that I really like. I was almost unconsciously collecting examples of books like Walter Tevis's The Hustler
, which is the basis for that Paul Newman movie. Don Carpenter
writes really brilliantly about pool players in a couple of his early books. He also has a great short story about an all-night poker game in one of his late collections that came from North Point Press. And there are also films, like California Split
and Bob le Flambeur
, the early Melville film.
I guess I've always been into games as a kind of idea of a world within a world, or a sort of pocket universe, where things are played out that both seem more controlled and as a way to step outside of life. The game board becomes a kind of version of life. So I was always thinking I would like to do something like that. For a long time, because I played poker, I thought, Wow, I suppose I could write about a poker player
, but that topic seemed too… it was like chewed-up gum. There's just so much poker in the culture, so it never seemed personal or specific or peculiar enough for me. Then I learned about the fact that you can actually be — because there are such things — a backgammon hustler. That struck me immediately as having the kind of absurd specificity that I like the most.
There's something about backgammon; it seems kind of cheesy and suburban, like everyone's got an old backgammon set rotting in their games closet or their TV room, or if you go to a summer house, there'll be a backgammon set. It's hidden inside the chess and checkers board, but you never use it. It's just there. I myself played it a lot when I was 12, 13, 14 years old and then forgot about it. Yet it simultaneously has this deep, strange, ancient quality.
Turns out it's one of the oldest games human beings play. It goes back to Mesopotamia, some versions of it. I was immediately turned on. I thought, I don't think anyone has a claim on this. It's too awkward and marginal to be anyone else's precinct, so it must be mine.
It was an immediate self-assignment. [Laughter
At the same time, when I was starting this book, or thinking about starting it, I was living in Berlin. I was on a really lucky sabbatical semester and living in this wonderful place called the American Academy in Berlin, and I was rereading things that I hadn't reread for a long time. In some sort of conscious way, I was going back to first sources.
I read a lot of Graham Greene
when I was a teenager. I think it formed some sort of deep pattern for me of what a novel should feel like. The kinds of sentences and paragraphs and the proportion, the way he does narrative and also his tendency to use the pathetic fallacy everywhere to make landscapes or environments mirror the character's emotional situation. He was like some sort of baseline condition for my own idea about what the novel was. I found myself compulsively rereading Graham Greene and realizing how deep he'd reached into my sensibility. At the same time, I realized I'd never done what he did, which is write about an expatriate directly.
You got me. I'm just totally myself over and over again, no matter how much I try to announce some new phase. The vacuum, the absence, the blot, the lack appears here as decisively as ever.
My books are very American. I've tried so many different kinds of stories, but — with the one exception of the book that's set on Mars [laughter
] — I've pretty much written about California, New York City, sometimes parts of the desert or the Midwest, but I barely ever ventured to other shores.
It seemed really strange to me, but also a really interesting leap. The minute I made that observation, I thought, Well, the expatriate thing has always been sort of metaphorical for me, or figurative.
If you think about the kid in The Fortress of Solitude
, he's kind of dispossessed of his own street.
But I'd never really done it. I'd never plopped my character down in a foreign land. I thought, I better deal with that
, so the two things came together. I was right there in Berlin, so that was an easy call. I began writing about the landscape I was in and putting my character — typical, bemused, doesn't-speak-the-language guy… For me, often the best way to write about something that intimidates me is to write about a character who's equally buffaloed or helpless in the face of it. The way I wrote about physics in As She Climbed Across the Table
was to write about it from the perspective of a humanities guy who falls in love with a physics professor but openly declares his helplessness. I was doing the same thing with Germany, and Berlin was really alive for me at the time that I was living there. It fell in my lap.
And then I wanted something really, really different from both Berlin and anything I knew, so I wrangled an invitation to the Singapore Writers Festival for myself. Ian McEwan
says somewhere that to write well about a place, you need to be there for only 10 days; anything more and you begin to wreck the perfect first impression.
I cut his assignment in half. I was there for five days, and I went to the casino and lost some money at the poker tables and anointed myself qualified to put Singapore in the book.
You do go back — or Bruno does go back, obviously — to California, as well. What made you want to write about Berkeley in that way, in terms of the social and economic engines that are affecting it? Not that they're unique to Berkeley, but...
No, but this angle of real estate and residual bohemian cultures giving way to either stasis or gentrification… It's embarrassing, but real estate's one of my permanent subjects.
I'd lived in Berkeley in my 20s and worked at bookstores and really been part of that retail scene on Telegraph Avenue. I'd never tapped it as a subject in any way, really, either directly or indirectly.
There were things that I intuited about this material that made me know it was not a New York character and not a New York story and that that would just be opening up all of my bottomless well of associations for New York City that are really great for me to explore, but also could take over the book really easily. [Laughter
I needed, in a way, a kind of analogous place to run away from for this character, and Berkeley presented itself. I think there was just some kind of ripening of my experience in Berkeley where it was long enough ago and it suddenly seemed available and interesting to me. I felt like I could make it work. I could do what I wanted to do with that scene. Then I started writing about Telegraph Avenue and retail in a way that pulled up all sorts of buried associations and images from my time on that front line.
You know, there's something about that street that's extremely specific. The legacy of the Free Speech Movement and the presence of People's Park and the entrance to the campus at Sather Gate. It's just really charged. It's really strange. Some people find it really depressing. A lot of people in Berkeley will talk about wanting to be away from Telegraph, or how it's a fallen place.
I guess I was very involved in it at a time when people were already beginning to speak of it as if it was a residue or a disaster area. For me it was very alive with intimations and weird juxtapositions, so I drew on all of that stuff to give Bruno a home to be tormented about that wasn't my own tormented Brooklyn.
One of the things he's tormented about is his mother. As a reader, you really only get glimpses of June — she's someone I wanted to know more about. She seems like an example of something you've said about the way your mother's death affects your work:
"My books all have this giant, howling missing [center] — language has disappeared, or someone has vanished, or memory has gone."
That's true of Bruno's mother in this new book, but it's also true of his face — there's literally a big hole in the center of his head once the tumor is gone.
Right. You got me. I'm just totally myself over and over again, no matter how much I try to announce some new phase. The vacuum, the absence, the blot, the lack appears here as decisively as ever.
Yeah, the missing mom is a problem — I default to it and I try to make it mean different things in different ways. The irony is, I took his dad away, too, and I have him musing on how he's meeting his father when he looks in the mirror. As he ages, he's meeting the father he never knew in his own aging face.
Nearly every time I set out to write a new novel, I feel like, at some level, it's the antidote to the preceding one.
So there's a kind of triple robbery I've imposed on Bruno. His mother clatters off with her shopping cart into the unknown. She could be alive, or not. There's really no way he can prove it. The father's gone, and then even as the possibility of knowing something by looking in the mirror is announcing itself, his face is taken away.
Bruno's maybe the most beset character I've ever written. I relate him to a number of other personalities I've been interested in. To me, he reminds me a little bit of Chase Insteadman, the narrator of Chronic City
. Though Chase, in contrast to Bruno, really gets away with it. He skates through on his good looks. He's not destroyed.
Yeah. And as you were saying, Bruno's relationship with his appearance is a facet of the book too. You write, "The face — you'd call it a face, certainly — wasn't bad. It wasn't Alexander Bruno as he'd been before, and it wasn't not-Bruno, either, but a fascinating amalgam….Should he mourn his beauty? Bruno found it difficult to bother." But then when he's told it's time to leave the hospital, he realizes he's been kidding himself and requests his mask.
Why did you want to explore identity through sort of the most literal or direct means, like the face and then masks?
There's another hidden genre, something I find myself weirdly interested in, the narrative of the stolen or destroyed face. There are actually more examples of it in film, I think, like Eyes Without a Face
. There's an amazing late Pedro Almodóvar film called The Skin I Live In
, and even that really messy Tom Cruise movie. [Laughter
I guess I've always been chasing in some way this thought about surface and depth in how we construct identity. Which, yeah, it risks seeming like a superficial thing, but it's also about the way we're stuck in these envelopes that our selves are poured into. We do walk around in them and they have to do the work of standing in for who we are and how we want to be known, no matter what we might feel otherwise, how much we might prefer some other way of being. We are in these skin costumes.
One of the things that I guess I've thought about lately — I'm getting older, we're all sliding down the same terrible slope. I've been reading and thinking about a lot of really compelling narratives of women acknowledging the change in their lives as allure that’s been stolen from them. There are so many brave, brilliant, courageous, intense accounts of the somatic life of the woman's body and the woman's beauty suffering change. I think in a weird way, men don't get to... It's sort of been disqualified because we're all so uncomfortable with masculinity right now.
The default male protagonist in an ethical narrative these days is like a Charlie Kaufman
character. He can barely believe that anyone would ever look his way. We never write about male allure, so we can also never write about its disappearance. And I think I got interested in this missing subject. I don't want to say it's a forbidden subject, but this gently self-censored topic of the fact that men also do walk around with vanity and turning heads — and then they don't. Then it's taken from them.
I guess I wanted to exaggerate that condition in Bruno and obviously, with the surgery, sort of hit fast-forward. It also confronts the problem of someone whose identity is excessively dependent on allure — the idea of charm or allure as a substitute for other forms of self-definition or self-understanding.
One thing that condemns Bruno to such a desperate fate is that he arrives at the problem of self-construction way too late. He's let all these other things, these external conditions, define his manner of moving through the world. The way his beauty affects people, the way this capacity as a kind of cipher or enigma signifies, the way he can win at this board game, and the way he can float in and out of circumstances, has been good enough, so he hasn't done other kinds of self-seeking.
What is it to take a person apart and fix them? It's so deep. It's so profound. That doesn't mean the person executing the maneuver is necessarily profound.
I'm curious about what you're saying in terms of wanting to explore that narrative of the missing face or the destroyed face. Was that your first interest, so Bruno's tumor and the disease served that? Or was there something specific about the disease itself that intrigued you?
In the age of Google, you should be able to find anything you ever read, but I read something that I've never been able to relocate — an account of a surgery like the one that I tried to depict in the book. It involved a kind of opening of the door of the face that was so disturbing and so compelling. I had no plans for it, which is why I didn't hold onto it or Xerox it or bookmark it.
That was just humming away in the back of my subconscious, six, seven, maybe eight years ago, when I encountered this description of a surgery that was kind of iconoclastic: someone going in basically to the space between the countenance and the brain case, between the eyes and nose — as I call it in the book, a Bermuda triangle, a surgical no man's land that's actually quite a lot harder than brain surgery. A lot of surgeons won't try to do it. I just thought, Holy shit! What did I just read? That's crazy.
I think I grew up with a fascination with brain surgery because my mother had two of them in my teenage years, one quite successful, that bought her several years of life, and then one that didn't exactly kill her but was a failure.
I read a lot about brain surgery. There's a brilliant book by a writer who's become a friend, Lawrence Shainberg
, called Memories of Amnesia
. It's a novel about a brain surgeon who begins developing symptoms of brain disease and self-diagnoses himself. He decides to operate on himself while conscious using a set of mirrors and a device so he can do his own brain surgery and experiment with his own brain while conscious.
It's just a crazy, Kafkaesque, funhouse mirror of a book. Larry Shainberg also wrote a very fine nonfiction account of brain surgery called Brain Surgeon: An Intimate View of His World
So I've kind of collected this stuff, but nothing had prepared me for the fact that — I always thought of it as the exotic summit of surgical art just to go into someone's brain. Then I heard about this behind-the-face thing. It lit up all my most horrified bumpers like a pinball machine. I just tilted. [Laughter
At some point when I was thinking about my backgammon hustler and my ugly white male Graham Greene protagonist, in a way I knew I had to impose some kind of unmasking on this character to get at what I wanted to in this material. Suddenly, this idea of putting him through that surgery that had been so arresting for me to read about came in. Then I had the book. I had the three elements, the gambling and the expatriatism and the surgery.
The model for the narrative in a weird way comes from... There's a kind of design for a book that I like very much that's counterintuitive. It's where the most catastrophic possible thing occurs in the exact center of a story. The book divides into prelude and aftermath. It's not a very typical structure for a novel, but a couple of my favorite books organize themselves that way.
Don DeLillo's White Noise
is an example, with the airborne event that comes dead center. The book starts out as a kind of parody of a suburban pastoral and then turns into a science fiction nightmare in the second half. It's all because this book has been plunged into this disaster area. It's almost like a bomb is dropped.
Another book that functions that way — the structure of it, the way the narrative is experienced by the readers — that always haunted me was Ian McEwan's The Innocent
. It's a Berlin story set in the time when the Wall is imminent in the divided city, when the sectors are spying on one another. There's a tunnel; the Allies are building a tunnel between the two sectors just to try to spy.
In the middle of the book, I don't want to give too much away, but the two main characters conspire in a murder. Though they're not killers, they find themselves conspiring in a murder, and they have to dispose of the corpse. There's a protracted scene of their disassembly of the corpse which is so traumatic to undergo for the character and for the reader that it's like the entire book is turned into a before and after. There's an innocence to these characters that's destroyed.
What the second half of the books asks you to consider is what can happen for them, having gone into this nightmare of cutting up the corpse and disposing of the corpse. What's left? Who are they after that? Everything's changed.
And I thought, I want to write a book that has this catastrophe in the center, that has that same structure.
That symmetrical sense might relate to something else I was going to comment on, which is that everything ties very well together in this book, in particular — there aren't a lot of loose ends. Metaphors and images connect and reconnect, kind of layering meaning — the masks, the dice, the tumor, the characters connecting and reconnecting. How did you think about weaving the different images and elements of plot together like that?
First of all, I want to say thank you because that is just about the best thing someone could say about a book. Without wanting to seem overconfident, I do feel that my pleasure in this book comes from having attained this sense of a dynamic wholeness and totality in the system of images and signifiers, to use a fancy word. I really, really wanted it to feel like it wasn't a pile of arrows pointing outside of its own system but that they all pointed inward.
Nearly every time I set out to write a new novel, I feel like, at some level, it's the antidote to the preceding one. At the simplest level, after Dissident Gardens
, doing all that historical research and so many different kinds of characters and time periods and voices, I wanted to write something highly unified. I was very proud of Dissident Gardens
, but it was a giant, sprawling... it's not even one contraption. It's a series of contraptions that interrelate.
So I wanted to do no research [laughter
] except for playing a lot of backgammon online, which I did, and going to the casino in Singapore. I wanted to write about one character and I wanted there to be a really compelling through line, a dominant narrative experience for the reader. I wanted readers to feel like they were reading a story.
I feel so cruel when I talk about the things I've done to this character.
All of these things were just desires that had been accumulating in me after working in such an opposite way for such a sustained period on Dissident Gardens
. I think then the next level of desire was that I wanted it to not be tidy — I wanted it to be messy and strange in individual moments. I wanted it to have that texture of weirdness and awkwardness and specificity that makes you laugh and makes you uncomfortable scene by scene. But I wanted the whole book as a system to be very complete. I just really was hungering to see if I could feel that way about it.
In some ways, the model for me in my own work was earlier books like Girl in Landscape
and As She Climbed Across the Table
. This book isn't quite as short as those. I don't know if I could ever write a book as short as those again. I'm such a perfect example of middle-aged bloat and sprawl. [Laughter
] But in terms of the way the signifiers and the imagery connected, I wanted something similar. All of this is a long way of saying what you just said was music to my ears.
I think you absolutely do that, and that's so funny that you name those two books specifically, because those are my two favorites of your early books, particularly Girl in Landscape
When I started reading A Gambler's Anatomy
, I told a couple of people that it was such a pleasure to sink into your language and your storytelling ability, and there was something about it that I couldn't put my finger on that reminded me of those two books, almost taking me back to that time.
That's thrilling to hear. For me, Girl in Landscape
was a very special writing experience for me, and I just hold it in a very particular regard that probably no writer should have for anything they've done, but I can't help it. That book to me is sort of a perfect one.
It's also, by its nature, unrepeatable, even if I were a writer more prone to attempting to repeat myself than I am. I tend to be the opposite sort of person. For better or worse, I seem to be propelled to make myself into a beginner or an amateur each time out by setting up such new kinds of problems.
But I just hold it as an emblem of what I would like to feel like during the experience — not about other people's reactions, but what it felt like to write it was so special for me. And I felt really good about this book, too.
Another thing that's odd is that, kind of by chance, having to do with this sabbatical in Berlin and just where I was in my relationship to my publishing life, which was slightly different than it had ever been before… I've always bragged of not outlining books, but — I'm almost embarrassed to say it — I kind of outlined this one.
I really surprised myself with how interested I got in what that did. Because of course it was nevertheless the case that every day was an improvisational exercise. The map is not the territory, and what makes a book really alive — and the reason I used to brag about not outlining — is the sensation of having to be like a character actor, feeling your way into every situation that the book presents.
Well, it turned out that writing an outline didn't prohibit that, didn't thwart that experience. It changed it slightly. Maybe it even amplified it in some ways, because I was triangulating against this weird... it's like I made the poster first and then I made the movie or something. I'd be glancing up at the poster and be like, Oh yeah. I can't wait to see that movie.
It didn't help me, but it sort of inspired me. [Laughter
] Maybe some of the patterning emerged partly in this dynamic, where I made a kind of image of the book before I made the book.
Thinking a little bit of Behringer, but also just your interest in music in general, was there a particular soundtrack to this book or music that went along with it in your mind in some way?
Yes, I had a couple of things that were touchstones. There are some books where the soundtrack is a very prominent part of the work. Obviously, Dissident Gardens
being a near-at-hand example, where there was this literal need to immerse in the weird, earnest integrity and naiveté of the folk scene and the kind of music that communists would listen to [laughter
] in the '50s and at the beginning of the '60s. It really meant a lot to me that I just became a student of this stuff. It was kind of a part of the research.
With something like A Gambler's Anatomy
, I had these much more oblique touchstones. In thinking about Bruno's superficial but smoky personality, the nature of his charisma, I was listening to a lot of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry solo LPs. There was one Bryan Ferry record in particular called In Your Mind
which even has this borderline racist, "Orientalist" song called "Tokyo Joe." It's about his Japanese wartime girlfriend, the protagonist of this Bryan Ferry song, and it's really inappropriate stuff. But it captured, in a way, that Graham Greene "ugly white man in Asia" that was, in a weird way, lurking inside the conception of Bruno.
Also, the construction. When you listen to David Bowie or Bryan Ferry, you're hearing an intensely constructed persona that's this transatlantic, glamorous character in a tuxedo who really comes from nowhere but pretends to have some historical point of origin. He's the international man of mystery. He's really just about as fake as James Bond
is, and this was in a way part of what Bruno was about. I was listening to those songs and I was listening to other '80s New Wave, like Blue Nile. Very sultry, metrosexual stuff.
Then the whole Jimi Hendrix thing for Behringer was of course just a really gruesome joke. I'm very fond of the counterculture of the '60s, but I guess I can't stop making slightly nasty jokes about people like Behringer who still have a ponytail and basically their musical education stops with Hot Tuna.
For Behringer, I wanted to create an anti-Oliver Sacks
or something. He comes out of my fascination with surgeons, but he's pretty unkind both to hippies and surgeons. It's a real hate letter, those chapters, but it was a lot of fun to write. [Laughter
If you look at this book as a kind of horror novel, which I hesitate to say, because once you bring that word into it, the aficionados are very justifiably going to say, "Come on, this isn't scary and it's not gory. Have you even read horror novels?" But for me, in a sort of more late David Cronenberg
than early David Cronenberg sense, this is like Dead Ringers
or something. I wanted it to be really quite doomy, as well as absurd.
And one of the things that Behringer's there to do is to offer… Our reverence for the miracles performed by Western medicine causes us to associate the surgeons, especially the most exalted surgeons, the heart surgeons and the brain surgeons, with sublime healing. They're priests in a weird way. They're very removed and we speak to them only with reverence; they're very high on the secular totem pole.
But if you get to know them, they are performing miracles but they're also sometimes total screwballs, and they're certainly capable of also being egomaniacs or creeps, or just not very good at anything except performing those miracles. They're not all bearers of great, deep ethical or philosophical power, just because they do this thing that arouses philosophical and ethical anxieties in us. What is it to take a person apart and fix them? It's so deep. It's so profound. That doesn't mean the person executing the maneuver is necessarily profound.
In a way, if this is a horror novel, one of the things Behringer is there to do is to raise all of our very typical, very understandable, very human desires for the surgeon to be this person who does more than fix the mechanics, but fixes our souls. But then with Behringer, the novel says, “Forget about it.” This guy... he's sexually harassing his nurses while he's putting you back together. He's no use at all. You can't project anything onto him. I offer him up only to take him away.
Bruno's so lonely in a way. He's so looking for a father, and a surgeon would seem to be a proposed replacement. When he first walks into Behringer's office, the surgeon seems to be saying, "You've come to the right place. Maybe I'm going to really lead you into your next life." But all he can do is save the life of Bruno's body. He can't help with anything else.
In fact, Bruno terrifies him. When Bruno presents his complexity, when he presents himself as a problem beyond the tumor, Behringer can only backpedal out of the room. He's totally useless. It strands Bruno even further in this deep isolation that the book thrusts him into.
I feel so cruel when I talk about the things I've done to this character. [Laughter
He's another kind of absence.
Yeah. That's right. Behringer's really like a "nobody home" character. His relationship to Jimi Hendrix, it's like a placeholder. He even knows it's a placeholder. It's like instead of having a personality.
When you're describing young Bruno, when he learns how to block out his telepathy and begins to block out everything else, you say "Bruno was exquisite." It's a very striking word to use. I really like it, but I'm not sure if I know why.
I love that you fastened on that. I read that section aloud recently. I haven't read from the book very often; it's not an easy one to read from. And sorry — maybe this is more bragging, but you know how we were just comparing it to Girl in Landscape
? The hardest previous book for me to read aloud from was Girl in Landscape
, because of exactly this fact that all of the scenes were so dovetailed and interdependent that you couldn't break out set pieces. The system was so tight that there was no section you could read without explaining how all the rest of it worked. This book, when I've tried to read from it, presents me with the same difficulty, which I'm actually about to have to confront when I go on book tour. But I'm excited about it because it says to me that the book is doing that thing.
Anyway, I happened to read that page in one of my initial attempts to find a section that works out loud for the book. I myself wondered at how I'd landed on that word. Yet I wouldn't dream of second-guessing it.
In some way I wanted some bridging word to the idea that he was both fantasizing about himself and his future as the character we meet who's sliding through life on a lubricant of easy charm, unearned aura. "Exquisite." How did I land there? It also raises a red flag. It says that he's starting to look at himself as like a jewel in a case. It's like a sales pitch. He's beginning to wrap himself in other people's projected gazes.
It's a wonderful question, because that word and that moment, that recollection of his earlier time in the hospital — to me it's a tragic part of the book, because you could see his soulfulness and you could see him opting out at the same time.
It maybe represents one of those places where you feel most graced to come to something, because I don't feel conscious intention in that word choice. The way I can account for many things, I can't really account for that word to you.
÷ ÷ ÷
is the New York Times
bestselling author of nine novels, including Dissident Gardens
, Chronic City
, The Fortress of Solitude
, Motherless Brooklyn
, and A Gambler's Anatomy
, and of the essay collection The Ecstasy of Influence
, which was 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 Magazine
, Rolling Stone
, and the New York Times
, among other publications.