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Lucky Alan

3.10  ·  Rating details ·  883 ratings  ·  149 reviews
A father’s nervous breakdown during a visit to a theme park; a political prisoner confined to a hole in a busy New York street; a haunted 'blog' … Welcome to Lethem-land, which can be discovered only by visiting – a place where the uncanny can be found lurking in the mundane, where humour and poignancy work in harmony, and a modern master of American letters entertains and ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published July 2nd 2015 by Jonathan Cape (first published April 7th 2014)
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Lucky Alan: And Other Stories is a collection of short stories by author Jonathan Lethem. If you are a fan of his (and if you've read him at all, I think you must be!) then this is an experience you won't want to miss.

Every story is terrific (unusual in a story collection). Although I am primarily a novel reader, I also love short stories. A well-crafted short story can create a complete world and is an absorbing experience that can be grasped at a single sitting. These short stories deliver tha
Mattia Ravasi
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere in Jonathan Lethem's house there's clearly a drawerful of Aztec shrooms he only taps into when he decides to write short stories, and some of that stuff expired years ago.

That said, even at its most toxic his short fiction manages to convey through language some of its intoxicating euphoria, as if the ink they used at Vintage contained a percentage of acid from the deepest nineteen-sixties. Read too much of this stuff and you'll start speaking in tongues.

Some of the most successful sto
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 11/3/14
I got an advanced reader copy from Edelweiss, with the understanding that I would provide an honest review.

I wasn't sure how I'd like Lethem in short story form, despite loving his novels (although I'm a bit behind, I don't think I've read the last two.) I really enjoyed these! He plays with the words to a greater extent than I remember him doing in the longer novels, and it's almost tangible, like he's behind the pages cackling, waiting for the reader to say, "I see what you did there."

It's getting harder to bury the thought that we are at a crisis point in relation to the environment. The protagonist of the story, with a classic Lethem name of Espethet, is a family man. This role thrusts him somewhat unwillingly into the position having to explain to the next generation what is really happening to the environment and what is he doing about it. The problem is that he is aware of the facts, that animals are raised in horrific mass production facilities and that the demand for b ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fiction, vine
The general rule of thumb is that short stories have to end with a punchline. Something fundamental must occur in the last few sentences, something that makes the whole story suddenly make sense, or challenges the fundamental assumptions the reader had when they started, or changes the reader. Something needs to _happen_ at the end to make the story, short though it was, worthwhile.

And, well, that just doesn't happen in this book. Some of the stories have a small revelation near the end, but not
Larry H
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I'd rate this 2.5 stars.

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

For someone who once unequivocally refused to read short stories because I convinced myself that rather than invest myself in characters and plots that end quickly, my time was better spent reading full-length novels (such foolishness), I've more than made up for lost time over the last few years. And as any fan of the short story knows, the richness of characterizat
Doubleday  Books
This is an amazing collection of short stories from a literary master. Whether the story is realistic, rooted in mysticism, or found somewhere in between, each one is unique and thought provoking. Jonathan Lethem has a way of making every story he tells stick with you long after you’ve finished turning the pages.
An eclectic and wildly uneven short story collection from the author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude.

My favorite stories are "The King of Sentences," a very funny (self-)parody of literary preciousness, the brutal Shirley Jackson-esque "Procedure in Plain Air," and "Pending Vegan," a story of everyday guilt and discomfort that I related to very strongly.

The rest of the stories are a mix of quirky, charming New York City character sketches ("Lucky Alan," "The Porn Critic") an
I started this immediately after I read Mark Dunn's rich in letters fable Ella Minnow Pea. I also have a habit of reading short stories in alphabetical order. This meant starting the book with The Dreaming Jaw, the Salivating Ear. It felt, in the initial stages of the story, eerily, like I never left Nollop - the crusty seaside "blog" was written in similar overly formal, archaic and arch fashion as Ella. It changed once the story progressed, but I was hooked. There was an added advantage - this ...more
Nicole D.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have only ever loved one short story collection, and it was Salinger's Nine Stories. Usually with short story collections, just when you get interested in a story it ends, and then you have to start over and get interested in the next. Also, I generally find the stories hit and miss. With this collection, I couldn't wait to see what Lethem would do next! With the exception of Lucky Alan, which I thought was weak, every story was better than the last.

There were some very creative ideas, tons of
The Reading Raccoon
Listened to on audio for the Popsugar Reading Challenge Prompt “book written by a local author”.

This was probably too Smarty Pants for my tiny raccoon brain. I’m used to more action and less contemplation. Like nothing happened. People just walked around and mused. I’m not even interested in my own musings well alone someone else’s.
Marc Nash
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Master craftsman at work. Lovely turn of phrases and extended metaphors. Of the 9 stories only 1 I really didn't get on with and another so-so, but loved "Pending Vegan" and "The Porn Critic". ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I like Lethem's work generally and had positive feelings about this one after reading the first few stories, but it slumped here and there. "Traveler Home" was my favorite, and "Pending Vegan" was good too. "The King of Sentences" was funny and clever but not really capital-G Good. "Their Back Pages" fell really flat for me. "The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear" was baffling and frustrating initially but ok in the end (but still not one I much loved). I liked the title story well enough, and "P ...more
Allen Adams

Jonathan Lethem has long been gleefully subverting the tropes of genre fiction and using them to amplify the impact of his own writing. His expert folding of the weird into the everyday makes his work a reading experience like no other.

His latest story collection is “Lucky Alan: And Other Stories” – an assemblage that duly captures the anarchic spirit of Lethem’s work. While these nine stories aren’t perfect, their imperfections are a very real part of the
Wayne McCoy
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Lucky Alan' by Jonathan Lethem is a collection of nine short stories. I've read a few books by Lethem and this collection is a winner.

His style ranges from realistic to a sort of magical realism. A man weaning himself off anti-depressants takes his family to Sea World. Another man writes critiques of porn, then feels awkward bringing guest over to his house with it's piles of video tapes. A family buys a house and leaves one room empty, but why? A group of back page cartoon characters find them
Jul 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This feels like a collection mandated by the publisher. At least one of these stories--written as a series of blog posts descending the number line, is six years old, and it hasn't aged all that well. Lethem is hit or miss both here and in general with his formal experiments, but I appreciate that he finds new forms to play with.

Still, the best story here is his least experimental and most realistic, the story of a father recently off his anti-depressants taking his family to Sea World, seeing
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giving this 4 stars might be slightly generous - there are indeed a couple of really fantastic stories in this collection, but there are also several that didn't do a whole lot for me. Still, the ones I liked really hit home with me - I liked "The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear" so much that I immediately read it again. "Procedure in Plain Air" and "The King of Sentences" were also favorites.

Lethem's short fiction is often really weird, but that's what I love about it. Definitely recommended t
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course with this title, I had to read it! Seeing him read a story at my local book store was icing on the cake. I'm a fan of Jonathan Lethem's novels, but his short stories are excellent. He never wastes a word. His stories move seamlessly between realistic (sort of) and surrealistic (definitely) but always leave with more questions than answers which is a sign of a story that will stick with me for a long time. Looking forward to reading his next novel (which had a short story excerpt in the ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
The first story had me hooked...but it was all downhill from there. This is more of a collection of stories yelling "look how witty, experimental, and existential I am", as opposed to a series of stories that make me want to delve further into the book. I'm sure this might hit some reader's sweet spot...but it totally sail past my own. ...more
Rambling Reader
I'm confused by this collection of stories. really shocked at the quality. ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short story collection is a mixed-bag. Yes the sentences are dazzling. But this time the stories left me feeling awfully cold, distant and oddly unmemorable.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like others, I generally liked the collection, though my reaction was mixed. The first story, "Lucky Alan," is very interesting. You really get into the first-person character's head, and his portrayal of Upper West Side NY is right on the money. I don't quite "get" part of the ending, but that's okay.

Another first-person story, "The Empty Room," in which a young man looks back on the strangeness and downward spiral of his parents (father especially) also is evocative of a life and a time and a
I picked this book up at a yard sale somewhere, probably Washington, DC, or Brooklyn. I doubt anyone in my tiny town has read any of Lethem's short stories. His novels sure, but these kind of left my hanging in the wind. I did not read them consecutively but over several months, which is what I often to do with short story collections. I have a friend who only reads short story collections of current writers because he is generally disappointed with the novels they write and by focusing on a sho ...more
Bobby Keniston
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection is for Lethem fans, and I have been one since "Gun, With Occasional Music."

In his third collection of stories, Lethem delivers compact, precise, and often delightfully bizarre tales, embracing influences like Philip K. Dick, Kafka, and the entire Theatre of the Absurd (with a few nods to his beloved comic books, as well).

I don't wish to go into too much detail--- as I said, these stories are tight and compact, and the slim yet meaty volume can easily be consumed in a day. No roo
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eclectic collection of 9 stories by Jonathan Lethem. The obsessively, literary, stalker-noir "The King of Sentences" was my hands down favorite. I also have a soft spot for the oddities found in "Procedure in Plain Air" and "Their Back Pages." Though the lines that I want to transcribe for you come from "Pending Vegan." Perhaps I should let you discover them for yourself. (And don't feel bad if you decide to skip over "The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear.")

[ completing this book, this pu
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am torn between 3 or 4 stars. It isn't really "gripping" enough for 4, but 3 seems like an average score. The stories have great writing, some have great set-ups, some have great passages/scenes. None, not one, left me with a pause-and-consider-really-consider-life moment.

That's my bar for short story collections. I know going in that the format doesn't lend itself to wide-ranging sea force life corrections, or significant character arcs. But, doggone it, I need at least enough for a single p
Donald Schopflocher
A set of very different stories, united by their experimental nature, mood of foreboding, puzzlement and anxiety, struggle for meaning, and in almost all cases, quirky sentences and bizarre juxtapositions of ideas. Most are satirical even though the objects of the satire remain partially hidden. Like Kafka transported to contemporary USA and reborn into a culture of theatre, avant-garde movies, writing, drugs, comic books, porn, internet, coffee shops, theme parks, etc. Not all work. But the bes ...more
Due to my commute this summer for class and for work, I thought an audio book of short stories would keep me entertained and alert when on the road. While not all of Jonathan Lethem's short stories grabbed my attention, I would have to say my top three were "The King of Sentences", "Pending Vegan", and "The Porn Critic" due to the way the stories were told, and the lessons learned from each.

Not a 4+ rating, I would still suggest the book (print or audio) if someone were to ask for something a l
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mostly amusing, sometimes tiresome, only occasionally impactful, and wholly forgettable. Read The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye instead.

Not Bad Reviews

Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection does a far better job than most in offering a variety of storytelling styles that never sacrifice a consistently impressive level of quality. Inevitably, some will be more one's cup of tea than others, but they're each unique enough to always feel worthwhile and leave you curious for what's next. ...more
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Jonathan Allen Lethem (born February 19, 1964) is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer.

His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel t

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