Monday, September 09, 2013

Dissident harmony

With all due respect to my parents, my excitement level for Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens might mean I should be 10 years older and have been born in Queens. J. Hoberman weighs in: (LA Times)
Impressive as they were, previous novels "Motherless Brooklyn" and "The Fortress of Solitude" had difficulty piloting their ungainly narratives to safe harbor; although formally more coherent, "Chronic City" was also a slighter tale. "Dissident Gardens" shows Lethem in full possession of his powers as a novelist, as he smoothly segues between historical periods and internal worlds. I was rapt, although, having myself grown up in Queens among wannabe folkies and the children of persecuted Stalinists, a habitué of Shea Stadium (a "Sterno can in Band-Aids of orange and blue" that "heaved into view two stops before the Willets Point exit") as well as a member of the Student Peace Union, I may not be entirely objective.

As Lethem writes of Miriam, "Dissident Gardens" is a "hilarious and companionable" novel. It's also erudite, beautifully written, wise, compassionate, heartbreaking and pretty much devoid of nostalgia.

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