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Jonathan Lethem

30th annual Key West Literary Seminar

—Yet Another World: Literature of the Future—

January 5–8, 2012

Jonathan Lethem is the author of eight novels—including the much lauded Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude—and is the winner of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

In describing his own work, Lethem says, “Everything I write is informed by genre traditions, which I love deeply. At the same time, I don’t think I’ve written without straining against genre boundaries, and I’ve often violated them outright. I think my work reveals traces of an extremely eclectic reading history, and my narrative is also particularly informed by film. But my dearest models are nearly all 20th-century Americans pursuing high art through popular forms: Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, John Ford, Charles Willeford, George Herriman, and Patricia Highsmith, for instance.”

His most recent novel, Chronic City (2009), a New York Times Best Book of 2009, unfolds in an alternative-reality Manhattan, centering around the lives of a burned-out child star and a pop culture critic as they uncover mysteries and pursue truth. Other novels include You Don’t Love Me Yet, a raucous romantic farce that explores the paradoxes of love and art; and The Fortress of Solitude, which depicts the intricate codes of childhood street life he navigated while growing up in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn during the 1970s.

In 2010, Lethem was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Pratt Institute and became the second Roy E. Disney Chair in Creative Writing at Pomona College, succeeding David Foster Wallace. His writing routinely appears in major publications including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Granta, and McSweeney’s. He also authored the 10-part revival of the popular 1970s comic Omega the Unknown, which was published by Marvel in 2007-8.

Lethem is currently at work on another novel set in New York City during the 1950’s and 60’s, as well as a major collection of his essays and cultural critiques. His monograph on John Carpenter’s subversive science fiction classic They Live was published late in 2010.

Online Resources

Jonathan Lethem’s website
Lethem on Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary in the Atlantic
Lethem interview on BigThink (video)

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