"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jonathan Lethem

Just finished reading Forever, said the Duck, from Lethem's collection Wall of the Sky, Wall of the Eye. (I like the cover at the Powells link better than the cover on the one I got at Barnes & Noble.) The story concerns online avatars of former lovers of a couple who invite them to a cyberspace party for one last hurrah. It's complicated by the bizarre rules of cyberspace, and the fact that the avatars date from the time of their affair with the man or woman, and in the case of affairs with both, it depends on who invited them, and they carry a ticket identifying who did. So there are things that are in the future of certain avatars, that others already know. Nothing really comes of that, plotwise. In fact, nothing comes of anything, plotwise. Many of the avatars morph into cartoon characters. Then they all have sex. I like this story.

My favorite of Lethem's books is still the first one I read, Amnesia Moon, where reality was as changeable as weather, but I have yet to read Motherless Brooklyn, Men and Cartoons, his latest, and a few others. I read Girl in Landscape and Fortress of Solitude, which latter, while good, was too much of a boy book for me.

By now, everyone probably knows that Lethem, recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, is giving away film rights to his new book.

He mentions Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, as well as Open Source theory and Free Culture. Anyway, I recommend The Gift for its discussions of Art, Commerce and Indian Giving. (Long reviled, "Indian Giving" is the understanding that everything is to be shared.)

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