What's a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what's contemporary culture supposed to do with novelists? In "The Ecstasy of Influence", Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the 'white elephant' role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers. A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he's written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring and Marlon Brando.
Then there are investigations of a shelf's worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and others.
And, writing about Brooklyn, his father, and his sojourn through two decades of writing, one of the greats of contemporary American literature sheds an equally strong light on himself. Funny and unfettered, "The Ecstasy of Influence" simmers with direct challenges to conventional wisdom and deep insights into the kaleidoscopic nature of artistic vision, the primacy of the writer in the cultural marketplace, and the way the author's own experiences have fuelled his creative passions.
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