Another side

Author Jonathan Lethem reflects on ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’ at Vroman’s

By Carl Kozlowski and Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 11/10/2011

Author of eight novels, a novella, three story collections and five nonfiction tomes -- not to mention editor of five anthologies -- Jonathan Lethem is literally bursting with ideas. But he's never compiled a collection of essays until "The Ecstasy of Influence," in which he covers an eclectic collection of topics, among them sex in cinema, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyber-culture, Sept. 11 and Norman Mailer.

Lethem will be discussing and signing the personal and surprisingly candid tome Tuesday at Vroman's Bookstore, one of only four promotional appearances he's making to plug the book.

"About a third of the book is new, since I've accumulated all this stuff that didn't all belong together," the New York native explained in a phone interview from his office at Pomona College, where he teaches. "This is a collection of all the things I've done that aren't fiction, such as film criticism and music reviews. Most of the new writing is along the lines of thinking about the role of the fiction writer. The whole book adds up to a writer avoiding his work."

Looking forward, Lethem acknowledges that his status as the father of two young sons will undoubtedly have an impact on his future works. But for now, he's content to keep his mind free, thoughts flowing and fingertips racing across computer keyboards.

"I'm sure fatherhood will affect me, but I'm a very slow-moving creature," says Lethem. "My influences, the people I meet and interact with, the places I live in and visit, tend to be reflected very slowly over many years. I wasn't able to write anything meaningful about growing up in Brooklyn until I was in my 30s. So fatherhood hasn't really seeped up yet; it's somewhere in the unconscious, waiting to make itself known."

Jonathan Lethem will discuss and sign "The Ecstasy of Influence" at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit