Famous Quotes & Sayings

Jonathan Lethem Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Jonathan Lethem.

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Famous Quotes By Jonathan Lethem

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There's something about the rhythms of language that correspond to the rhythms of our own bodies. — Jonathan Lethem

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In my third novel there is an actual black hole that swallows everything you love. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'd have been a filmmaker or a cartoonist or something else which extended from the visual arts into the making of narratives if I hadn't been able to shift into fiction. — Jonathan Lethem

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Prince's music calmed me as much as masturbation or a cheeseburger. — Jonathan Lethem

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Yes! I'm the slowest comic-book writer on Earth. — Jonathan Lethem

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First, however, and feeling real excitement at the thought, the good burst of adrenaline at last, Behringer wanted to dismantle the sockets and loosen his patient's eyes. Behringer — Jonathan Lethem

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All paths lead nowhere, choose one with heart, — Jonathan Lethem

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How's it feel to be a worthless jumbo diddly-ass puppetool? — Jonathan Lethem

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On Telegraph, she stopped him in front of Walgreens, put the sack into his hands, a finger to her lips. "I'll come back." He was left to contemplate the sidewalk, full of listless earring vendors ready with their piercing guns. — Jonathan Lethem

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It was a rebus of heartbreak, misfortune a dog could parse. — Jonathan Lethem

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A reader, encountering a sentence about a barking dog, would have to dwell on why that choice was made at that moment. Everything in a novel is explicitly chosen, whereas some of what a film captures feels incidental, according to the vagaries of photography and sound recording. — Jonathan Lethem

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But the day I can't shrug off a twinge of self-pity, is the day I'm washed up for keeps. — Jonathan Lethem

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His jabber had a glottal, chanted quality, seemingly designed to guide you past the territory where you might wish to tell him to shut up already or even to strike him, into a realm of baffled wonderment as you considered the white noise of a nerd's id in full song. — Jonathan Lethem

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By trying to export myself into a place that didn't fully exist I asked works of art to bear my expectation that they could be better than life, that they could redeem life. In fact, I believe they are, and do. My life is dedicated to that belief. But still, I asked too much of them: I asked them also to be both safer than life and fuller, a better family. That they couldn't give. At the depths I'd plumb them, so many perfectly sufficient works of art would become thin, anemic. I sucked the juice out of what I loved until I found myself in a desert, sucking rocks for water. — Jonathan Lethem

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You could harbor a man in your bed or your body, play on his nervous system like Paderewski at the keyboard, and not shift his brain one inch out of the concrete of dogma. (p. 5) — Jonathan Lethem

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I never have been a musician; I'm not actually capable. Because I can't even pretend to acquire the gift, all of my first feelings about art are still attached to music. I look at it yearningly, I look at it wonderingly. I behold it from afar, as something unattainable, something outside of myself, from which I can take nourishment, but I can't domesticate and master. — Jonathan Lethem

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I can't bear the silent ringing in my skull. — Jonathan Lethem

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Zelmo was nearly bellowing by the time he raised his glass to the tables center. 'To the human heart!' Diners at other tables glanced to see what was the matter. — Jonathan Lethem

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By removing the stories from the morass of things that surround us, I'm hoping to achieve some kind of purer approach to emotional life. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'm a serial deconstructor of my own authority in certain areas. — Jonathan Lethem

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Listen to me. I'm shy. I'm not stupid. I can't meet people's eyes. I don't know if you understand what that's like. There's a whole world going on around me, I'm aware of that. It's not because I don't want to look at you, Lucinda. It's that I don't want to be seen. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'm a firm believer that there are no rules in art. Every trajectory is different. — Jonathan Lethem

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The less you offer, the more readers are forced to bring the world to life with their own visual imaginings. I personally hate an illustration of a character on a jacket of a book. I never want to have someone show me what the character really looks like - or what some artist has decided the character really looks like - because it always looks wrong to me. I realize that I prefer to kind of meet the text halfway and offer a lot of visual collaborations from my own imaginative response to the sentences. — Jonathan Lethem

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My inner chemistry had been hijacked by a mad scientist, who poured the fizzy, volatile contents of my heart from a test tube marked SOBER REALITY into another labeled SUNNY DELUSION, and back again, faster and faster, until the floor of my life was slick with spillage. — Jonathan Lethem

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But we were chumps and we knew it. As makers of sentences we were practically fetal, beneath notice, unlaunched, fooling around in our spare time or on somebody else's dime. Nobody loved our sentences as we loved them, and so they congealed or grew sour on our tongues.
We barely glanced at our wall-scribblings for fear of what a few weeks or even hours might expose in our infatuations. Our photocopied fortune slips we'd find in muddy clogs in storm drains, tangled with advertising flyers, unheeded.
Our manuscripts? Those were unspeakable secrets, kept not only from the world but from each other.
My pages were shameful, occluded everywhere with xxxxxx's of regret. I scurried to read Clea's manuscript every time she left the apartment but never confessed that I even knew it existed.
Her title was "Those Young Rangers Thought Love Was a Scandal Like a Bald White Head." Mine was "I Heard the Laughter of the Sidemen from Behind Their Instruments. — Jonathan Lethem

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I suppose in a way most of my characters are non-consumers, not terribly interested in all the little baubles and artifacts of contemporary life. — Jonathan Lethem

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He was permanently impressed by the most irrelevant banalities and impossible to impress with real novelty, meaning, or conflict. And he was too moronic to be properly self-loathing
so it was my duty to loathe him instead. — Jonathan Lethem

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Writing is physical for me. I always have the sense that the words are coming out of my body, not just my mind. — Jonathan Lethem

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No matter how enormous a novel may become, the physical act of reading determines that there's no way it can become a communal experience. To read is intimate. It's almost masturbatory. — Jonathan Lethem

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Guilt wants to cover all the bases, be everywhere at once, reach into the past to tweak, neaten and repair. Guilt like Tourettic utterance flows uselessly, inelegantly from one helpless human to another, contemptuous of perimeters, doomed to be mistaken or refused on delivery. — Jonathan Lethem

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We were in a middle space then, in a cone of white, father and son moving forward at a certain speed. Side by side, not truly quiet but quiescent, two gnarls of human scribble, human cipher, human dream. — Jonathan Lethem

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The revving heart of my hopefulness, kicked into gear anew, is the most precious thing about me, I refuse to vilify it. — Jonathan Lethem

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But the stories you told yourself
which you pretended to recall as if they'd happened every afternoon of an infinite summer
were really a pocketful of days distorted into legend, another jailhouse exaggeration, like the dimensions of those ballpoint-crosshatched tits or of the purported mountains of blow you once used to enjoy, or how you'd bellowed an avenger's roar when you squeezed the trigger of a pistol you'd actually brandished in self-pissing terror. How often had that hydrant even been opened? Did you jet water through a car window, what, twice at best? Summer burned a few afternoons long, in the end. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'm always serious. That's the tragedy of my life. — Jonathan Lethem

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The wind was picking up off the ocean now and the whole coastal scene had a bleak, abandoned look, as though Maine in November really belonged to the ragged gulls who wheeled over the sun-worn pier, and the humans had just gotten the news and taken a powder. — Jonathan Lethem

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I listen to music all the time. I write while listening to music. And I tell myself that the music nourishes the art forms that I do master and domesticate, and have authority over. — Jonathan Lethem

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There is nothing Tourettic about the New York City subways. — Jonathan Lethem

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I've had the odd good luck of starting slowly and building gradually, something few writers are allowed anymore. As a result I've seen each of my books called the breakthrough. And each was, in its way. — Jonathan Lethem

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Being blocked, being uncertain, sitting there not knowing, waiting, abiding with it: this is the work. If you don't have the tolerance for that you're in great trouble. If you want to call it a writer's block ... that doesn't seem a very useful name for that kind of abiding that I think is the essence of the work. — Jonathan Lethem

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Baader-Meinhof Gruppe, they are called also." "Yes. — Jonathan Lethem

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There's never any percentage in being ahead of your time. — Jonathan Lethem

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Picture us, five floating nudists in oxygen masks, ragged with fatigue and degrees of schock, squeezing the last beads of antifreeze from our hair. — Jonathan Lethem

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Don't rupture another's illusion unless you're positive the alternative you offer is more worthwhile than that from which you're wrenching them. Interrogate your solipsism: Does it offer any better a home than the delusions you're reaching to shatter? — Jonathan Lethem

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One of the things that novels have tended not to concentrate on over the centuries is the fact that people read books. — Jonathan Lethem

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When the civil rights battle was won, all the Jews and hippies and artists were middle class white people and all the blacks were still poor. Materially, not much changed. — Jonathan Lethem

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I met someone who lives in an elevator. — Jonathan Lethem

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I don't really ask of myself a given word or page count or number of hours. To work every day, that's my only fetish. And there is a physical quality to it when a novel is thriving. — Jonathan Lethem

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When I write lyrics, I really do go into an automatic folk appropriation mode. I see the vernacular register of 20th century song as being a bunch of forms to adapt and reconfigure. — Jonathan Lethem

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Memory is a rehearsal for a show that never goes on. — Jonathan Lethem

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I don't paint anymore. I haven't since I abandoned it at 19, in order to begin writing seriously. — Jonathan Lethem

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Apparently Brooklyn needn't always push itself to be something else, something conscious and anxious, something pointed toward Manhattan ... Brooklyn might sometimes also be pleased, as here on Flatbush, to be its grubby, enduring self. — Jonathan Lethem

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Some people have things written all over their faces; the big guy had a couple of words misspelled in crayon on his. — Jonathan Lethem

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When Rolling Stone handed me this crazy assignment to be in the studio with James Brown, they had the misapprehension that I'd written for them already just because I claimed my character had. — Jonathan Lethem

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Comics? Honestly, that's more a matter of nostalgia for me. I think most of that energy has gone to my love of literature and my love of film. — Jonathan Lethem

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Writing is a necessity and often a pleasure, but at the same time, it can be a great burden and a terrible struggle. — Jonathan Lethem

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Waves, sky, trees, Essrog - I was off the page now, away from the grammar of skyscrapers and pavement. — Jonathan Lethem

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The tragedy of being old is you can no longer apply whats taken you so long to learn (Kissing The Beehive) — Jonathan Lethem

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I plan less and less. It's a great benefit of writing lots, that you get good at holding long narratives in your head like a virtual space. — Jonathan Lethem

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Mingus Rude, Arthur Lomb, Gabriel Stern and Tim Vandertooth, even Aaron K. Doily: Dylan never met anyone who wasn't about to change immediately into someone else. His was a special talent for encountering persons about to shed one identity or disguise for another. He took it in stride by now. — Jonathan Lethem

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It was entirely possible that one song could destroy your life. Yes, musical doom could fall on a lone human form and crush it like a bug. The song, that song, was sent from somewhere else to find you, to pick the scab of your whole existence. The song was your personal shitty fate, manifest as a throb of pop floating out of radios everywhere. — Jonathan Lethem

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I learned to write fiction the way I learned to read fiction - by skipping the parts that bored me.
Jonathan Lethem

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I'd never pondered the bourgeois implications of an earplug. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'd forgotten my identity as the world's most pathetic superhero, become a Californian instead. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'm learning to hate the sound of my own voice. — Jonathan Lethem

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There was language everywhere; you could read the city, the city was a grammar — Jonathan Lethem

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Have you ever felt, in the course of reading a detective novel, a guilty thrill of relief at having a character murdered before he can step onto the page and burden you with his actual existence? Detective stories always have too many characters anyway. And characters mentioned early on but never sighted, just lingering offstage, take on an awful portentous quality. Better to have them gone. — Jonathan Lethem

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However appalling to consider, however tedious to enact, every novel requires furniture, whether it is to be named or unnamed, for the characters will be unable to remain in standing position for the duration of the story. — Jonathan Lethem

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Enough of this. Does every conversation with you have to be the director's cut? Get out of the car. — Jonathan Lethem

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(I)t was by Cicero's attainments that that he'd gained special witness to the liberals' adjustment to a brush with actual equality. — Jonathan Lethem

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Her fiercest sincerities were translated by the male ego, on arrival, into daffy flirtation. (p. 24) — Jonathan Lethem

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Matthew and Lucinda felt at the exact edge of their lives, feeling them close, closer, as near at hand as yet elusive as the wind that whistled in their hair: the true complete lives in which they would at last drown, the oceanic voyage into their thirties and beyond, through which their inchoate yearnings would either be soothed or disappointed, or both. — Jonathan Lethem

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The invisible are always so resolutely invisible, until you see them. — Jonathan Lethem

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May one plead, Your Honor, postmodernism as an involuntary condition? — Jonathan Lethem

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I had always wanted to be a writer who confused genre boundaries and who was read in multiple contexts. — Jonathan Lethem

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Behold the onset of my flinty tone. Along with so much else, a soft-tissue sarcoma can apparently drain the exultation from one's prose. — Jonathan Lethem

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Destroy the traces. I'd never tried to do that. Instead I'd lived in their midst for thirty years, oblivious, a blind man fancying himself invisible. — Jonathan Lethem

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Apologies aren't something you want to get in the habit of practicing in the mirror — Jonathan Lethem

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Winter days were static glimpsed between channel flips. — Jonathan Lethem

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Novelists get to direct the perfect films. We get to cast every part. We dress the set exactly as we wish. — Jonathan Lethem

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I'm not too embarrassed to say I'm the definition of the target audience. This is my generation, the one of exalting music in album form. — Jonathan Lethem

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Paranoid art, unlike paranoid persons, also distrusts itself. And so, paranoid art is the ultimate opposite, the urgent opposite, of complacent art. — Jonathan Lethem

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Someday I'd change my name to Shut Up and save everybody a lot of time. — Jonathan Lethem

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Every book is a kind of experiment in doing something that feels impossible. — Jonathan Lethem

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Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I've got Tourette's. My mouth won't quit, though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I'm reading aloud, my Adam's apple bobbing, jaw muscle beating like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently, mere ghosts of themselves, husks of empty breath and tone. — Jonathan Lethem

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What exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety? — Jonathan Lethem

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You can't reclaim a thing that changes as you touch it. — Jonathan Lethem

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What's beautiful about art is that it circumscribes a space, a physical and mental space. If you try to put the entire world into every page, you turn out chaos. — Jonathan Lethem

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The past is still visible. The buildings haven't changed, the layout of the streets hasn't changed. So memory is very available to me as I walk around. — Jonathan Lethem

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Except science now tells us that luck is there whether you acknowledge it or not. And I'm afraid in your case I see the signs of a history of bad luck. Not even a latency so much as a full-blown case going completely ignored for lack of context. — Jonathan Lethem

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My heart and the elevator, a plummet inside a plummet. — Jonathan Lethem

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There were days when no kid came out of his house without looking around. The week after Halloween had a quality both hungover and ominous, the light pitched, the sky smashed against the rooftops. — Jonathan Lethem

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Laughing at "Rapper's Delight"'s no revenge, and anyway it wasn't your idea, and anyway it's funny. Dean Street's another story, a realm of knowledge unapplicable here.
You've just about finished leaving Dean Street, and Aeroman, behind.
If this means avoiding the one who protected your ass all through junior high, the one you once ached to emulate, the one whose orbit you were happy just to swing in - if it means leaving the million-dollar kid's regular phone messages in Abraham's precise handwriting unreturned - that's a small price to pay for growing up, isn't it?
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around.
It's the end, the end of the seventies. — Jonathan Lethem

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Today the tower's flock, the usual birds, flew in a kind of scatter pattern, their paths intricately chaotic, the bunch parting and interweaving like boiling pasta under a pot's lifted lid. It appeared someone had given the birds new instructions, had whispered that there was something to avoid, or someone to fool. I once heard Perkus Tooth say that he'd woken that morning having dreamed an enigmatic sentence: "Paranoia is a flower in the brain." Perkus offered this, then smirked and bugged his eyes
the ordinary eye, and the other. I played at amazement (I was amazed, anyway, at the fact that Perkus dreamed sentences to begin with). Yet I hadn't understood what the words meant to him until now, when I knew for a crucial instant that the birds had been directed to deceive me. That was when I saw the brain's flower. Perkus had, I think, been trying to prepare me for how beautiful it was. — Jonathan Lethem

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We writers aren't sculpting in DNA, or even clay or mud, but words, sentences, paragraphs, syntax, voice; materials issued by tongue or fingertips but which upon release dissolve into the atmosphere, into cloud, confection, specter. Language, as a vehicle, is a lemon, a hot rod painted with thrilling flames but crazily erratic to drive, riddled with bugs like innate self-consciousness, embedded metaphors and symbols, helpless intertextuality, and so forth. Despite being regularly driven on prosaic errands (interoffice memos, supermarket receipts, etc.), it tends to veer on its misaligned chassis into the ditch of abstraction, of dream. — Jonathan Lethem

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As much as I care about historical context - I'm very eager to read a really great historical account. — Jonathan Lethem

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I grew up with an artist father, and my parents' friends were also mainly artists or writers, so he connects what I do with his example. — Jonathan Lethem

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The cars rushing below knew nothing. People in cars weren't New Yorkers anyway, they'd suffered some basic misunderstanding. The two boys on the walkway, apparently standing still they were moving faster than the cars.
Nineteen seventy-five. — Jonathan Lethem

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Consensual reality is both fragile and elastic, and it heals like the skin of a bubble. — Jonathan Lethem

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Fifth grade was fourth grade with something wrong. Nothing changed outright. Instead it teetered. You'd pushed futility at Public School 38 so long by then you expected the building itself would be embarrassed and quit. The ones who couldn't read still couldn't, the teachers were teaching the same thing for the fifth tim now and refusing to meet your eyes, some kids had been left back twice and were the size of janitors. The place was a cage for growing, nothing else. School lunch turned out to be the five-year-plan, the going concern. You couldn't be left back from fish sticks and sloppy joes. You'd retain at the least two thousand half-pint containers of vitamin D-enriched chocolate milk.
Two black guys from the projects, twins, were actually named Ronald and Donald MacDonald. The twins themselves only shrugged, couldn't be made to agree it was incredible. — Jonathan Lethem

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Did he ever
try?'
Mingus shrugged. 'He was like you.'
What's that mean?'
Means he tried.'
Of course. The ring was not a neutral tool. It judged its wearer: Aaron Doily flew drunkenly, and Dylan flew like a coward, only when it didn't matter, at the Windles' pond. So if had attuned to Robert Woolfolk's chaos.
Don't tell me,' said Dylan. 'He flew sideways.'
Mingus left it vague. He'd always made it his habit to protect their honor against one another
Dylan, Arthur, Robert. To say nothing. — Jonathan Lethem