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Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem


NYS Writers Institute, September 11, 2013
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Standish Room, Science Library, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus


Jonathan Lethem, bestselling author of the novels Motherless Brooklyn (1999), and The Fortress of Solitude (2003), will read from and discuss his new novel, Dissident Gardens (2013), a family saga about three generations of New York City leftists, on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.


Jonathan Lethem is a novelist and critic celebrated for his scholarly interest in American pop culture, and for novels that blend a variety of genres, including comic books, detective fiction, and science fiction. He received the National Book Critics Circle Award for his bestselling novel Motherless Brooklyn (1999), the story of a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome.

In 1999, Lethem was the only novelist listed among Newsweek’s “100 People for the New Century.” He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2005.

Dissident Gardens

Lethem’s new novel is Dissident Gardens, the story of three generations of American radicals living in Sunnyside, Queens, and Greenwich Village, as they take part in the home-grown Communism of the 1930s up through the Occupy Wall Street movement of more recent days. The Kirkus reviewer said, “A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations and the boroughs of New York... The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth.”

Lethem’s previous novel was Chronic City (2009), the tale of two friends down on their luck—one an actor, the other a critic—as they go about their lives in a surreal and futuristic Manhattan. The novel was named one of the New York Times’ “10 Best Books of 2009.” Writing in the New York Times Book

Jonathan Lethem

Review, Gregory Cowles called it, “Astonishing.... Knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line..... Intricate and seamless....A dancing showgirl of a novel, yet beneath the gaudy makeup it’s also the girl next door:  a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass.”

Other novels by Lethem include You Don't Love Me Yet (2007), The Fortress of Solitude (2003), Girl in Landscape (1998), As She Climbed Across the Table (1997), Amnesia Moon (1995) and Gun, with Occasional Music (1994). The story of two friends (one black, one white) growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, The Fortress of Solitude became a national bestseller and was named a New York Times “Editor’s Choice.” Novelist Richard Russo called it, “a grim, brave, soaring American masterpiece.”

Jonathan Lethem

Lethem’s most recent book of nonfiction is Fear of Music (2012), a passionate tribute to and scholarly analysis of the Talking Heads’ same-titled third album. The reviewer for the London Observer called it, “stylish and illuminating,” and said, “be warned:  his obsession is contagious.” Lethem’s other nonfiction works include the essay collection, The Ecstasy of Influence (2011), which features as its title piece a widely-discussed defense of the act (and art) of plagiarism; The Exegesis of Phillip K. Dick (2011, with Pamela Jackson), featuring excerpts from the journals of one of Lethem’s greatest literary heroes; and They Live (2010), an analysis of John Carpenter’s 1988 cult film of the same name.

Lethem also edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia: An Anthology of Writing on the Subject of Memory Loss (2000), and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine.

Previous Visit: October 21, 2003

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.