Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: "Dissident Gardens" by Jonathan Lethem

Dissident Gardens is easily the worst novel I have read by Jonathan Lethem, a writer I used to really like and still, haphazardly, look forward to any novel or book that is released by him. It isn’t a matter of his work changing, but more to do with the broadening of my horizons. He is no longer the one modern writer I really enjoy, and find more an more that are quite better and offer better experiences than he does, and they don’t get half the recognition that Lethem does. It is the same reason I feel the same way about Michael Chabon; both are kind of quasi-literary superstars, at least to the intellectual elite, and any thing they put out, even if it is sub-par effort like this novel, is going to get a lot of press, and some undeserved lauded praise. Every novel they put out seems like an event, but it rarely lives up to my expectations, at least. This novel in particular, is actually worse then the last couple of books I have read by Lethem, even worse than Girl in Landscape. It concerns a cross-section of political radicals and dissidents as the tides of American politics change, and what it means to be a revolutionary when the terms and conditions of that label are changing with technology, people, and personal beliefs. I’ve got to say, this is a very arrogant book, as you would expect from a novel that has this kind of plot.  But that is not the reason I don’t really like this book. It acts so arrogantly, but it is rarely interesting, and it never brings anything new to the table. I liked all the references to literature, but everything else around it was quite pedestrian, not the kind of work you’d expect from someone who wrote Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude. I’d have to say skip this one.
Rating: 2/5

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