Excerpt from Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Dissident Gardens

A Novel

By Jonathan Lethem

Dissident Gardens
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Sep 2013,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2014,
    384 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I haven't written any report." He spoke tightly, as though she were the one who'd crossed a line, referring too intimately to his subjugation to the unseen cell leader. For Sol Eaglin, that, rather than bodies meeting in the night, constituted intimacy.

"I'm done inside, Sol," said Rose, meaning the kitchen and elsewhere: inside all the implied philosophies and conspiracies that clung in the air around them, had been belched out when they came through the door like heat and fume when you opened a coal stove. "Take them away."

"You should permit us to follow procedure."

"Procedure for what? Looking at you, old man, I can see what the mirror won't tell me. I'm an old woman. I don't have time for it."

"You're a fine woman in her prime, Rose." Eaglin's tone wasn't persuasive. Who knew whom he didn't want to be heard by, in the nearby bushes?

"I'm a degenerate, to hear of it."

"Come now, Rose."

"No, it's a degenerate world now, so why wouldn't we be part of it, you and I and those idealists in my kitchen?" She stepped into his embrace, loathing them both and wanting him to feel her loathing, as well as to prove how easily still she could squirm her bosom into the palms of his hands. Eaglin gave her boobies a good feel before shoving both hands into his jacket pockets. The act might have fit his definition of procedure.

Yet she'd outwitted herself, wanted more than she knew. She took Sol by the wrists, this time forcibly inserted his chill palms within her blouse, let him rediscover how she spilled at the whole periphery of her brassiere. Rose's versatile cynicism was dangerously near to spilling, too, becoming irrecoverable, mercury in a shattered vial. Sol Eaglin knew her better than any man alive. Better than her black lieutenant, though she might die rather than let Sol know it. She and Sol had for nearly a decade suffered identical contortions: the party line, and each other. If she'd only managed to wrest him from the obedient disobedience of his marriage, to a meek woman suffering nobly his claim to free love, Rose might have imprisoned Sol happily. They could have installed themselves as a Great Red Couple, lording it right here in the Gardens—but how these fantasies reeked of conformism! How bourgeois, finally, the aspiration to succeed socially within the CP!

Be grateful, then, for Sol's limpet wife and for the instincts of the body that had led her to seek elsewhere. Rose was beyond Sol's destruction, being larger than Sol knew, much as Communism was larger than the party and therefore beyond the party's immolations, its self-stabbings. By reaching for her impossible policeman, her Eisenhower-loving giant, Rose had practiced a radicalism, a freer love than Sol Eaglin could know. The critique was implicit in the gesture. Yet she wasn't tempted to translate it all into Marxism for him, not at this late date. Rose might be slightly weary, at last, of Communism. Yet Communism—the maintenance, against all depredation, of the first and overwhelming insights that had struck the world in two and made it whole again, and in so doing had revealed Rose's calling and purpose—was the sole accomplishment of her life, short of balancing a pickle factory's books. It was also, and not incidentally, the sole prospect for the human species.

"I'm cold," she said. "Let's go inside."

"You're lying." Now Sol was turned on, getting a little humpy, she knew the signs. "You're not cold, you're hot as a baked potato."

"I won't argue, the world is founded on such contradictions. It's possible I'm all at once cold and hot and lying. But not lying as much as you, Sol."

Excerpted from Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem. Copyright © 2013 by Jonathan Lethem. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  132Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.