Jonathan Lethem is the author of eight novels, including Chronic City (2009) and Motherless Brooklyn (1999), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a prolific essayist on music and culture and is author of a number of other books and essay collections, including his latest, The Ecstasy of Influence. Lethem has long credited the influence of genre traditions upon his work, and says his models are writers “pursuing high art through popular forms” such as Shirely Jackson and Philip K. Dick. Lethem is also editor of the Library of America’s four-volume edition of Dick’s novels and co-editor (with Pamela Jackson) of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, based on notes and fragments uncovered after Dick’s death.
In prefatory comments to this talk, given on the opening day of the 2012 seminar, Lethem explains that it will be a “plate-spinning act” encompassing and weaving together a range of provocative observations. He promises to tell us “the difference between the true and the real”; to provide “a pocket defense of the … metafictional tendencies in the literary arts”; to reveal “why sharks save swimmers,” “why paranoia is bad in life but good in art,” and, finally, “why money is like language.” Along the way, Lethem touches on Samuel Delaney’s novel Dhalgren, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the “garage philosophy” of Erik Davis, as well as the works of physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, economist Daniel Kahneman, and anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber.
From KWLS 2012: Yet Another World