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Author Archives: flowbear

“Real art has been willfully confused with fake art.”
~Jonathan Lethem

Let’s say you’re a novel, and you want to get in a sex scene without breaking the flow of the narrative. What do you do? Well, if you’re Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, you have characters exchange weighty, plot-moving dialogue while they’re having orgasms. And you do it twice. Did I mention you’re only 224 pages long?

Nobody doesn’t like Jonathan Lethem. Who doesn’t like Jonathan Lethem? He’s an underdog comer of a novelist, the best we’ve got at bridging the increasingly antiquated (if still apt) gap between high and low culture. I hopped on Lethem’s bandwagon at Motherless Brooklyn, so I haven’t read his early science-fiction inflected work, but I know enough to know that nothing feels out of place in a Jonathan Lethem novel. He’s a paragon of omnivorous consumerism, a guy who knows all about art and music and loves to tell you that he knows what he knows. He pays homage to filmmakers, soul singers, grunge rockers, installation artists, painters, comic book creators, cartoonists, physicists, sociologists, chess prodigies, and semi-professional masturbators. They all crash together in a dayglo confluence of class and trash. It’s no surprise that the names of the main characters of his best book, The Fortress of Solitude, Dylan and Mingus, are shared by musicians who toiled away in marginal, populist traditions – folk and jazz – until they were eventually canonized and lionized as Great American Artists.

So Lethem tends to write about scrappy underdog types, and this novel is no different. The characters don’t have a lot going for them in the classic sense of climbing the corporate ladder – one of the only character with a day-job works at a masturbation boutique called No Shame – so to fill the time, they kidnap kangaroos. They do high-concept installation art. They play in a rock band. And they fuck a lot. Sometimes they orgasm before they’re able to start. When they’re not in the presence of another character, they masturbate. More than once, the protagonist Lucinda tries to masturbate and fails.

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