A mixture of personal memory and cultural commentary, The Disappointment Artist offers a series of windows onto the collisions of art, landscape, and personal history that formed Jonathan Lethem's richly imaginative perspective on life at the end of the twentieth century.
Lethem illuminates the process by which a child invents himself as a writer, and as a human being, through a series of approaches to the culture around him.
In the title piece, a letter from his aunt (a children's book author) spurs a meditation on the value of writing workshops, the role and influence of reviews, and the uncomfortable fraternity of writers.
In 'Defending The Searchers', Lethem explains how a passion for the classic John Wayne Western became occasion for a series of minor humiliations.
In 'Identifying with Your Parents', an excavation of childhood love for superhero comics expands to cover a whole range of nostalgia for a previous generation's cultural artefacts. And '13/1977/21', which begins by recounting the summer he saw Star Wars twenty-one times, 'slipping past ushers who'd begun to recognize me...', becomes a meditation on the sorrow and solace of the solitary moviegoer.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 160 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 07/07/2005
- Category: Biography: general
- ISBN: 9780571227747
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Review by cliffagogo
Reading this slim collection of essays and personal reminiscences by Jonathan Lethem, you get the sense of his past novels being brought sharply into focus.The pop culture references that litter his novels (most notably Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress Of Solitude) are here given a context, a voice. From his first piece which recount his attempts to unsuccessfully defend the John Wayne film The Searchers to all his friends, to the chapter 13, 1977, 21 where he tells of his mixed emotions at going to see Star Wars 21 times. Lethem's style is witty and self-deprecating, and there's an underlying warmth and tenderness to his subjects that means it's difficult not to crack a smile whilst reading this fine volume.