Sunday, April 01, 2007


Two weekends ago I spent a couple days reading the latest novel from Jonathan Lethem, You Don't Love Me Yet. It was my sixth book of the year (Fantasyland, which I wrote about in my last post, was the seventh).

I'm a fan of Lethem's work, even though I haven't read all of it yet (hmm, why is that?). I count Motherless Brooklyn among my favorite books; I liked The Fortress of Solitude quite a bit, as well as his most recent story collection, Men and Cartoons. Heck, I even read his book of essays (The Disappointment Artist). So I was planning to read his new novel when it came out. I decided to see what the early reviews were saying and was surprised to see mostly middling reviews. Many seemed to be disappointed that it wasn't a big "ideas" book along the lines of the last two novels (though Motherless Brooklyn was most effective in the execution of an idea). It appeared that the reviewers weren't giving it a fair shake based on what it was, a short novel about music and sex.

I liked the book. No, it's not an "idea" book per se but there are still a lot of ideas in it. Ideas about sex and music and art and life. It's a love story in that it's about what two people do when they decide not to be together anymore. The decision ends up destroying a band. Before that, the band becomes successful when borrowed ideas become lyrics for their songs. It's full of great turns of phrase and descriptions...Lethem can write. And yes, I'm being vague about the book. I think it's worth reading.

Now maybe I'm biased towards liking a book by Lethem and that colored my reading of the book. But I'm certain that my bias is no different than many of the professional reviewers of this book. It's okay to let writers put out different kinds of books, stories, whatever. They shouldn't be punished for it. Not that Lethem is necessarily being punished, of course. It just seems to me that he wasn't given a fair shake on this one. I encourage you to read it and make up your own mind...and you can feel free to wait for the paperback too. Just get around to it sometime and come to it with an open mind; I think you'll enjoy it.

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