In case you missed it last year, Jonathan Lethem’s essay collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, is out in paperback this month. It’s easy to recommend for any fan of Lethem’s work, offering a broad look at his development as a writer and some of his most cherished influences.
But it’s easy to recommend for a few different kinds of readers as well. There’s some interesting music writing in here about Bob Dylan and Rick James, essays about comic books and “Wall Art,” not to mention the Harper’s essay that lends its name to the collection, a surprising meditation on plagarism, copyright, reuse, and creativity. There’s also–and being a fan of Lethem’s fiction, I had not anticipated this–a set of pretty funny stories all featuring Drew Barrymore.
So there’re a lot of reasons you might decide to give this little collection a try, while not forgetting its self-referential structure and its circular conception of itself. Reading the whole thing straight through could be a worthwhile project for the dedicated enthusiast, but cherry picking the bits you find most intriguing is fine too, and probably equally in keeping with the book’s madcap sensibility.
At the very least, you should check out the Harper’s essay, available here or in the heart of this strange survey of the preoccupations of a writer named Jonathan Lethem.
Similar reads:The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem, Advertisements for Myself by Norman Mailer, and The Gift by Lewis Hyde.