Jonathan Lethem will read at the Central Library tomorrow, March 22, at 7:00 p.m. for FREE. His latest work is called You Don’t Love Me Yet, a comic novel set in Los Angeles. He took a few moments to chat with the Free Library Blog and answer our most pressing questions.
1. What role have libraries played in your life?
"The Pacific Street branch of the Brooklyn Public Library -- a classic little rotunda with a circular upper gallery of sections, looking out over a balcony onto the main desk below -- was my home-away-from-home. I remember acquiring my card, with my mother, in second or third grade, I suppose it was -- early enough, anyhow, that I was still checking out picture books, piles of them. Later I'd go alone after school and lose myself totally in the spinner rack of science fiction paperbacks. Eventually that library was also the source of one of my first and most thrilling creative lives -- in a special after-school program run by the local artist and teacher Ken Rush, I made two animated films in the upstairs of that library. For a while, as a result, I was sure I wanted to be a filmmaker...
To make a long story short, the immersion in the magical silence and splendor of a public collection of books is for me utterly commingled with my discovery of who I was and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. A library, even a small one, is a portal into worlds, a Borgesian 'container bigger on the inside than on the outside'. Out of this same fascination and devotion I've tried to make every home I've lived in a library as well."
2. What was your favorite childhood book?
"Alice In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass, no contest. Everything I've ever written has this same occult source in Lewis Carroll."
3. Who is your favorite fictional character?
"Well, these days I'd probably have to say that Roth's Zuckerman has meant the most to me -- precisely because he is a character who is also a narrator, and a writer, and for the many extraordinary tales he's led me through so masterfully, without ever giving up his own vulnerabilities and failings as a character."
4. Who are the three authors you think everyone should be required to read-which books would you start with?
"Dickens' Great Expectations, Orwell's 1984, and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who."
5. If you couldn’t write, what other job would you like to have?
"Well, I'd certainly have the one I had before I was allowed to make a living from my writing -- I'd be a bookseller. Ideally (though I never got this far before quitting) I'd run my own small used-and-antiquarian shop, probably in some college town, a big enough store to get lost in, but with a staff of no more than four or five other booksellers..."