Jonathan Lethem, Emo Comic Books, Realism, Meta-textual Quotes, History’s Actors, and Lazy Writing

There’s a good (and rather long) interview with Jonathan Lethem at the AVClub today. Mr. Lethem is one of our favorite authors here at Biblioklept, Inc. (you may recall our review of his brilliant Fortress of Solitude back in September of 2006 (a mere 1,111 days after the book was initially published)).

In the interview, Lethem references the Talking Heads a number of times, claims to be slowly writing “kind of an emo comic book” for Marvel Comics, goes in-depth on his style and approach to writing, and discusses his new book, You Don’t Love Me, which I have not read yet.

The interview begins with an interesting discussion about realism (specifically, literary realism) which reminded me of an essay I’d read a few days before in the February issue of The Believer by Chris Bachelder (yes, I’m aware that I lazily linked to a Believer article earlier this week).

In “Doctorow’s Brain,” Bachelder ponders on whether such a thing as literary realism can really exist, and if so, what types of books and literature represent that style. I found the essay fascinating–I love all things literary, and I could point plenty of books that could be called “magical realism,” but I would have a really difficult time defining “realism.”  So Bachelder’s inquiry provoked a lot of deep questions about the very nature of writing, communication, memory and history. One of the most fascinating (and scary) pieces of writing he discusses is a quote from one of George W. Bush’s senior advisers, published originally in an October 2004 New York Times Magazine article by Ron Suskind. From Bachelder’s article:

“[…] Ron Suskind’s “Without a Doubt” introduced the Bush administration’s derision of what it calls the “reality-based community”–those reporters who, according to a senior adviser to Bush, “believe that solutions emerge from judicious study of discernible reality.” As the adviser explains to Suskind:

“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.””


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