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Jonathan Lethem’s new collection of stories is a feast for his fans and the perfect introduction for new readers—nine fantastic, amusing, poignant tales written in a dizzying variety of styles, as Lethem samples high and low culture to create fictional worlds that are utterly original. Longtime readers will recognize echoes of Lethem’s novels in all these pieces—narrators who can’t stop babbling, hapless would-be detectives, people with unusual powers that do them no good, hot-blooded academics, and characters whose clever repartee masks lovelorn desperation as they negotiate both the stumbling path of romance and the bittersweet obligations of friendship.
• “The Vision” is a story about drunken neighborhood parlor games, boys who dress up as superheroes, and the perils of snide curiosity.
• “Access Fantasy” is part social satire, part weird detective story. Evoking Lethem’s earliest work, it conjures up a world divided between people who have apartments and people trapped in an endless traffic jam behind The One-Way Permeable Barrier.
• “The Spray” is a simple story about how people in love deal with their past. A magical spray is involved.
• “Vivian Relf” is a tour de force about loss. A man meets a woman at a party; they’re sure they’ve met before, but they haven’t. As the years progress this strangely haunting encounter comes to define the narrator’s life.
• “The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door” is a Borgesian tale that features suicidal sheep. (This story won a Pushcart Prize when first published in Conjunctions.)
• “Super Goat Man” is a savagely funny exposé of the failures of the sixties baby boomers, and of their children.
“Sparkling with the off-beat humor and subtle insights, Men and Cartoons is a welcome addition to the shelf of the writer “whose bold imagination and sheer love of words defy all forms and expectations and place him among his country’s foremost novelists.” —Salon
“A strikingly original collection . . . imaginative, insightful, witty and sad.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“An already dazzling writer shows us a new card. . . . Men and Cartoons ends on a note that portends Lethem's most experimental turn yet: toward human love as [a transporting] alternate universe. . . . Lethem in a new, more nakedly personal key.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Lethem is the man to beat in fiction these days. . . . Every tale of ennui, cosmic regret and petty yearning is perfectly realized. The brevity of the book and perfection of the stories puts every other member of his generation to shame.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Terrific. . . . Lethem captures the world we know and the one hovering just beyond our periphery.” —The Baltimore Sun
“Compelling. . . . Effective. . . . Intelligent and poignant. . . . Strange, amusing, haunting. . . . Lethem has what musicians call 'chops,' or technical mastery. He can mix and match prose styles and literary genres to create glittering fictional artifacts. . . . Each of these nine tales rewards the reader in some way—through an insight, a scene or simply the force of the author's imagination.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Bristling with familiarity. . . . Theme[s] that resonate. . . . [Lethem is] adept at letting palpable human experiences emerge from absurd, fantastical situations.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Nuanced. . . . Resonates with intense force.” —Newsday
“Smart. . . . Original. . . . Memorable. . . . Lethem is . . . [like] the Coen Brothers of fiction.” —The Seattle Times
“Men and Cartoons will open up a vast new world to readers unfamiliar with Lethem's oeuvre. . . . The entries are uniformly fine—each in its own way representative of Lethem's mastery of whatever style he attempts.” —Rocky Mountain News
“Engaging. . . . A Lethem primer. . . . The characters of Men and Cartoons need their stories to be told.” —The Village Voice
“Jonathan Lethem spits out genres like curse words—from sci-fi to pseudo-erotica to the epistolary. His narrative psychosis is our disturbed enjoyment.” —Genre Magazine
“Wonderful. . . . A collection of tales based in Brooklyn but permeated with fantasy [from] the very talented Mr. Lethem.” —The Hartford Courant
“Lethem at his best. . . . [An] appealing array of stories [that] exemplify Lethem's talents as a profoundly imaginative writer.” —Chattanooga Times Free Press