Jonathan Lethem was born February 19, 1964 in Brooklyn, NY. He attended the alternative High School of Music & Art in New York where he produced a literary magazine and wrote a short novel titled Heroes. Lethem went to Bennington College in Vermont before dropping out in his sophomore year to move to California and pursue writing.
Lethem met with literary success early. His first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, a science fiction/hard-boiled detective story, was a finalist for the 1994 Nebula Award. The commercial success that Lethem saw for Gun, With Occasional Music, combined with the optioning of the novel's film rights, allowed the author to stop working at bookstores and devote himself full-time to writing.
Each of Lethem's subsequent three novels -- Amnesia Moon, As She Climbed Across the Table, and Girl in Landscape -- were in the science fiction genre, and each went largely unnoticed by the mainstream.
In 1996, the author moved from the San Francisco Bay area back to Brooklyn and began writing Motherless Brooklyn, a detective novel built around a language-obsessed protagonist suffering from Tourette's Syndrome. Motherless Brooklyn won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1999 and also garnered the Macalan Gold Dagger for crime fiction. The New York Times referred to Lethem as a "genre bender" for his able mix of detective, science fiction, and literary elements in his novels to-date.
In 2003, Lethem published The Fortress of Solitude, a somewhat autobiographical coming-of-age novel about two friends growing up in the Brooklyn of his youth. With its elements of magical realism and thematic complexity, The Fortress of Solitude is considered to be among the best of Lethem's novels.
Lethem has since published Men and Cartoons, a collection of short stories, and The Disappointment Artist, a collection of essays, in addition to his 2007 novel about a complaint-line phone operator who incorporates her callers' words into her band's lyrics, You Don't Love Me Yet.
This biography was last updated on 01/09/2014.
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Jonathan Lethem talks about his latest book, The Fortress of Solitude,
You're going on an extensive
reading tour for FORTRESS. What's it like talking about Brooklyn outside of New
As a regional writer, which is what I am lately, I'm incredibly lucky: my region is an archetype that the rest of the country, and indeed the world, cares about. Brooklyn's been etched into the cultural consciousness of most readers (and moviegoers), so I don't feel like I meet a lot of resistance in putting the material across elsewhere. And just about everyone I meet claims to have a distant uncle or cousin living in Brooklyn, not that they ever call or visit.
The book is packed with such rich detail: on the prison system, comic books, the music industry. How much research was necessary on these subjects?
I did a lot of research, more than I'd ever done for any other book by far. More than I'd ever done in school, in fact, I learned the pleasure of study for the first time these last five year, which is to say, quite late. Of course, much of what I was studying was my own life, the life of my city as I'd known it, the culture which surrounded me like an ocean surrounds a fish and about which I ...
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