Return conversation with Jonathan Lethem on his new novel The Arrest, the spell of stories, wrestling ourselves free from language & exiting an exhausted paradigm,
Part One: Opening the Door for the News (0 – 35 mins)
Speculative fiction & predictive fiction, anticipating the covid crisis, longing for dystopia, Kunstler’s World Made By Hand books, Dr. Bloodmoney, diagnosing the appetite for dystopia, Hollywood aggrandizers, culture imposed upon nature, opening the door for the news, the limited views of hilly roads, a flicker of the past, how The Arrest was written, The Pale King, a rural Chronic City, drawing on literary powers, the most photographed barn in America, sticky koans, the life we thought we were living, a hoaxed career, David Graeber’s bullshit jobs, James Brown’s field of distortion, Brown’s cape man.
Part Two: More Perceptual Bubbles (35 mins – 1 hr 11 mins)
Motherless Brooklyn movie, Hollywood interest in Lethem, time-averaging, perceptual filters, what sci-fi designers get wrong, different ages of objects, a cacophony of different pasts, the undistributed future, the conspiracy of attention, the middleman, an emblem of enabling, Trump and Michael Cohen, the humanizing effect of serflings, the nightmare of Trump, the super-car of the constructed identity, ideological bubbles & safety bubbles, the infantilization of James Brown, a nihilistic monster-king, Lethem’s reliance on the falsifications of NPR, Alan Watts, thrift store work, choosing idealism over immediate compassion, the experience of the body.
Part Three: A Razor’s Edge Over Uncharted Waters (1 hr 11 mins – 1 hr 45 mins)
What Lethem’s wrestling with, Maddy as the pivot of indeterminacy, is Lethem self-rejecting, debunked male protagonists, Orson Welles’ dyads, two sides of Lethem, the sorcerer and the apprentice, the issue of complicity, the lure of American culture, Lethem the wizard, Jasun’s Hollywood complex, Lethem’s lethal text, a book of quiet consent, Bruce Sterling & the Martian concentration camp, Amnesia Moon, an ideological ocean of toxic masculinity, a bridge to the past, an emissary from vanishing worlds, a razor’s edge over uncharted waters.
Part Four: The Unnumbered Days (1 hr 45 mins – end)
Losing oneself in the unnumbered days, the Buddhist silence, born in Babel, moving beyond language, the exhaustive declaration, a MIC-drop, covid talk, elusive losses of freedom, the assumptions of the present, avoiding death, the imposition of a narrative, global awareness, The Man Without Qualities, a moment of silence and collapse of meaning, a canary in the coal mine, an ambassador for Philip K. Dick & pulp sci-fi, the end of the progress myth & the hour of self-examination, exhausted paradigms, a They Live moment, the essential reflexive, an appetite for intervention, talking across a breach, the work of weeding, Lethem’s abandoned super-car.
Lethem portrait art by Martin Jolly
Songs: “Pirates” by Entertainment for the Braindead; “Taxidermy Plastinated Mixx” by Mr & Mrs Smith; “Broken Land” by The Bones of J.R. Jones; “The Garden’s Song,” by Art of Flying; “Changes” by Short Hand.