The Liminalist # 78.5: The Termite & the Elephant (or: The Unknown Face of Jonathan Lethem)


Part two of a return conversation with Jonathan Lethem, author of A Gambler’s Anatomy, on the struggle to be a somebody, Chase Steadman’s celebrity vs. Bruno’s wanna-be-ness, the unknown face, the desire for anonymity, distrusting popularity, a termite operator or a failed elephant, Dissident Gardens, Lethem’s bid for the mainstream, being marketed, a multi-genre author, film noir and the art of subversive entertainment, a writer’s freedom to do anything, the collective self-advocacy of the reading world, an impossible assignment, avoiding self-betrayal, a writer’s compulsion, Lethem’s secrets, living inside the Panopticon, being exaggerated towards complicity, the reification of the status quo & the neoliberal consensus, an allegorized protest against reality, an evaporating message, black incarceration and social injustice in Fortress of Solitude, the underside of Brooklyn, the quaintness of Lethem’s fear, a reporter’s perceptual filter, a Phillip K. Dick reality, a murder in Dallas by robot, Adam Curtis & the indictment of artists, the inappropriate aesthetic response (IAR), the aestheticization of horror, relating to simulacra, the aesthetics of poverty, studying the code inside the matrix, a text about enlightenment, when the moment happens, a book about franchising & real estate, inside a temporary autonomous zone, freedom soup, slipping the bonds of faux purpose, freedom within prison, is there a difference, the property of velocity, As She Climbed Across the Table & the quality of compression, Girl in a Landscape, the most dangerous thing there is, Perkus Tooth’s challenge to Chase, a double-bind, complicity with popularity, a coping strategy, rehearsing dissociation, an opening ignored?, the way out within, horror or not-horror, the hidden trauma, a useless super-power, displacement & the hierarchy of sexual use, a neutral game, the vacuum of the father’s face, a lack of male connections, disappointed mentorship, immersion in the mother’s psyche, an octopus of a novel, being haunted by fiction, reaching the edge of a limit, the publication ritual, becoming an automaton, the Lethem mummy.

Lethem’s site.

Previous podcasts with Lethem.

Songs:  “The Kommema and his Religion” and “Of the Lakes,” by SunWalker; “Heaven Haze,” by Cotton Club; “Eyes of Despair,” by The Silver Chords.

2 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 78.5: The Termite & the Elephant (or: The Unknown Face of Jonathan Lethem)”

  1. I’ve never read any of J. Lethem’s work, but I enjoyed these interviews—they left me wanting to check out his books. Does anyone have any recommendations on which of his novels might make a good starting point?


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