for better (and of course, definitely worse) I was in New York City around the turn of the millenium. one of the appeals of city life is the illusion it gives of "centrality." certain Manhattan movie theatres have day-before national release distribution of motion pictures (I saw Sophia Coppola's LOST IN TRANSLATION a day before Michigan and Arizona); every once in a grand while a internationally-renowned celebrity walks non-chalantly past you on the sidewalk; author readings; Central Park and Bryant Park concerts and screenings; planned media events. By merely living on that oddly shaped 8 x 22 mile shaft called Man-hattan, you can almost pretend to yourself that you yourself are an important VIP, that your thoughts, readings, friendship circles and whatnot are part of some grand intercontinental network, that you are a tastemaker, that your recommendations in cabs and at the Hudson Hotel bar will be overheard and passed along the great chain of people-to-people information.
as far as literature goes, [b:Motherless Brooklyn|328854|Motherless Brooklyn|Jonathan Lethem|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348254729s/328854.jpg|1971553] was one of those set-in-New-York, released-first-in-New-York authorial event-incidents that mark the grand metropolitan life. people [b:Paul Auster] and [b:Jennifer Egan] are in many ways simultaneously part of the social fabric of the city they document, and if you're just off the Southwest Airlines flight from Portland, you can far more impress any suitable females if you actually recognize Auster or DeLillo. I passed Woody Allen on the street and disdained him. the support crew shot me a look of worship. but sometimes the phenomenoa goes both ways. what can you do with three people on the subway have 'Motherless Brooklyn' out? how do you react to two hours of conversation at a Lexington Avenue Starbucks about JL? possibly you blowback--i.e., you pooh-pooh the perfectly competent book.
I'm almost suspected my current 3-star *** on Brooklyn is a result of all that. didn't I speed-read through it? wasn't it a majority-decision bookclub choice (always a recipe for insipidity)? for whatever reason, even though I haven't seen a copy of the book for some years I ranked it at 3. [b:Girl in Landscape|16719|Girl in Landscape|Jonathan Lethem|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348075057s/16719.jpg|587400] wasn't that a somewhat understated but subtly delightful 4? again, agh, I don't have a copy off-hand. have to safe-rank it at the 3 and await getting another dog-eared copy. [b:Fortress of Solitude|9799|The Fortress of Solitude|Jonathan Lethem|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1345563666s/9799.jpg|1971520], on the other hand, probably a high-3 regardless. some passages that are authorial reminscence rather than authorial construction. ding-ding points on that.
the point of all this long-winded meandering is that I think I'm 'compensation' rating this at the 5. if I cheated Lethem out of a 1/3rd star on Brooklyn and possibly as much as the full star on Girl, I guess that adds up to the 4.2 or 4.3 this book deserves and counter-ways to the full 5. this would put Lethem at the apparently appropriate 3.75 or whatever, and although it opens up the possibility I will later up-rate Girl and then ease down here, for now, we'll hold it at the 5.
arguments for 5:
*light, 'post-modern' piece; no heavy going anywhere, no
*literary form of a Wes Anderson movie; literary form of I-heart-Huckabees 'existential detective' motifs
*very skillful (shouldn't be under-rated) mixing of genres: campus novel meets pomo-philo piece meets light allegory
*numerous allegorial rereads: substitute 'love' 'death' 'chance' 'time' 'sex' 'ravine' 'adulthood' for Lack and you have, voila, seven new novels!
arguments for 4 or below:
* short, just 224 pages
* treatment of post-modernism vs. physics as top negative reviewer on entry notse has been handled--and with more depth/complexity
* Lethem edges close to shocking but never quite crosses over?
so, here's the 5 for now, prone to a possibly slight edge-down to 4, but under no circumstances a 3; a strong, short, punchy Lethem.