"In Bed" with Jonathan Lethem

Posted by Goodreads on November 9, 2009
Jonathan Lethem New Yorker Jonathan Lethem captures the gritty heartbeat of his native metropolis in his novels. The Fortress of Solitude is a semi-autobiographical traipse through Brooklyn gentrification, and Motherless Brooklyn follows a lonely mobster detective with Tourette syndrome. For his latest book, Chronic City, Lethem mints a new protagonist, this time a twisted childhood sitcom star, and heads north to the tony thoroughfares of the Upper East Side. We asked Lethem to share five essential novels about the city—New York, New York—that drives and inspires him.

Another Country by James Baldwin
"A panoramic view of the New York City of my parents' generation, the wide-open postwar Bohemian metropolis of raw possibility, and raw disappointment."


Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
"While New York is never named in this apocalyptic phantasmagoria, Delany is a child of Harlem and Greenwich Village, and Dhalgren is really a beautifully allegorized New York coming-of-age novel, albeit with two suns in the sky."


Players by Don DeLillo
"Nobody much seems to think of Delillo earlier than White Noise anymore, but before Underworld and Cosmopolis came this fierce, razor-tight and noir-sinister vision of the unsustainability of life in the shadow of Wall Street. In fact, it could be seen as a premonition of DeLillo's 9/11 novel, Falling Man."


A Dog's Ransom by Patricia Highsmith
"Highsmith lived in France and Switzerland while writing this and most of her other masterpieces, but she was a Manhattanite during her formative years. This novel captures the stark resentment of those excluded from the city of privilege—as if Mark David Chapman had come to town and written a novel, instead of stalking his target. "


The novels of Dawn Powell: Turn, Magic Wheel, The Wicked Pavilion, The Locusts Have No King, etc.
"Impossible to choose among Powell's delirious, mordant, and elegant novels of Manhattan gadabouts, cads, and gadflies—and anyway, I read them all in a gulp, one after the next, when they were republished in the '80s and '90s. Why don't you do the same?"


Honorable Mention: "It's awfully hard to restrict myself to five, so here's a nod to Richard Price's Ladies' Man, Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, Paula Fox's Desperate Characters, Selby's Last Exit To Brooklyn, and so many others."


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