Mark's Reviews > Men and Cartoons

Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
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Jan 19, 09

Read in January, 2009

Just finished this collection of short stories, which is the first thing I've read by Jonathan Lethem (other than his excellent essay for the Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers of All Time issue (Rolling Stone's editorial approach is blatantly whorish, but even within that context they hit on something now and then).

Speaking of which, this collection was hit and miss. I thoroughly enjoyed and may reread stories such as The Vision, Planet Big Zero and Super Goat Man. The only reason I would reread stories such as Vivian Relf and The Glasses is to confirm my suspicion that whatever it is I'm looking for in the reread isn't there, never was. I sense a sort of post modern sleight of hand that deceives me into wishing I was more clever, more informed in some secret knowledge and ultimately suspect that I've been duped.

Imagine a hip bar where a collection of regulars are the comrades of this ring leader sort of guy. He conspires with all his chums to have them laugh long and heartily in reaction to an absurd and not really funny at all joke he plans to tell. You arrive at the bar, order your drink and ring leader guy warms up to you. He's charming and soon you're conversing with him and several of his friends. He tells a joke. They all burst out laughing, holding their sides, slapping his shoulders. You, however, don't get it at all. Should you laugh along to demonstrate that you're not some sort of hick (or at least to disguise the fact that you probably are)? This is the general impression created by the Lethem stories I did not enjoy.

Onward.
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