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The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.…

The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.

by Jonathan Lethem

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Lethem states in the beginning that often readers get irritated by the self awareness of modern writing. The endless MFA analysing and theorizing about literature is why I didn't major in English lit. While a little navel gazing isn't out of place when reading, the whole "postmodernism" - analysis of analysis of analysis of uber self awareness - the insertion of the author's narcissistic tendencies into the book, if you will - makes me want to spork myself in the eye. Anyway, a couple of good things in here, pop culture riff, the used bookshop, the bit on plaigarism. As much as I like Lethem, this made me go, "Quit rambling and get *on with it". Lethem even mentions the king of observing self referential minutia - Klosterman. Except? Klosterman still makes it interesting, Lethem not so much. I know. I'm a philistine. Eh bien. Minor reference to my alma mater. Memo to Lethem: The Fluttering Duck isn't a "coffeehouse". It's a bar. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
I like books like this, the sort you might term 'lapidarium', or collected essays. However, I thought Lethem's to be a touch to hit-or-miss; some of his writing, especially on his early career as a clerk in a used books shop, is excellent - enthralling, even - but for somebody who has little interest in music journalism, a lot was skippable. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 21, 2014 |
Picked this up just to keep the high going after PKD's Exegesis but he had me with the first line of the first essay, "I came from dropping out; the only thing I knew at the start was to quit before they could fire me."

He's not afraid to leave the slapdash bad ones in here and address that, yes, sometimes there are bad ones and (even better) sometimes you have to leave them in there to fulfill a contractual agreement you signed before you knew better. Yes, sometimes we don't know better. It's brave and unpretentious.

His relationship to SF fandom is fascinating and it informs his appreciation of his fans now. I love it because he and I seem to be walking back and forth across this same bridge everyday.

He comes off as far more interesting here than in interviews.

Chronic City is the best novel written about the internet.

( )
  librarianbryan | Apr 21, 2013 |
I savored the pieces in this collection, my first exposure to Lethem's non-fiction. There are treasures here, especially the title essay, his profile of James Brown, and his interview with Bob Dylan. Good reads for sure! ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
As should probably be expected from a 450-ish page collection of mostly pretty short essays, the quality in this book varied. The title essay, "The Ecstasy of Influence" (it's available online) is a fantastic exploration of plagiarism/influence and hypocrisy, and I found almost all of Lethem's essays on books enjoyable. The stuff about his time as a bookstore clerk confirmed my long-held fear that bookstore clerks really are as judgmental as they seem. The sci-fi and postmodernism stuff was interesting, too. A lot of the music and film stuff didn't quite manage to hold my interest (notable exception: "The Drew Barrymore stories", a short piece, which was delightful).

So, reading this: worthwhile, but skip over the stuff that doesn't interest you, and be aware that if you start finding Lethem annoyingly self-serving, you probably tried to read too much at once. ( )
  kszym | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385534957, Hardcover)

What’s a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what’s contemporary culture sup­posed to do with novelists? In The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the “white elephant” role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers.

A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he’s written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring, and Marlon Brando, as well as on a shelf’s worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Paula Fox, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and oth­ers. And, writing about Brooklyn, his father, and his sojourn through two decades of writing, Lethem sheds an equally strong light on himself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A career-spanning anthology of writings incorporates several new essays and includes numerous celebrity portraits as well as the author's musings on topics ranging from sex in cinema and drugs to cyberculture and graffiti.

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