This Post Also Starring Jonathan Lethem’s Father’s Goatee

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01/27/2009 10:00 AM |

Good old Granta 37: The Family, there, from the autumn of 1991, posted here because it’s a much more attention-getting cover than the lit mag’s current issue, Granta 104: Fathers, which this post is actually about. (Also it is more attention-getting than Granta 88: Mothers, from the winter of 2004. [What took them so long et cetera.]) This post is about that, you see, because there is a reading tonight at Housing Works, at which Jonathan Lethem, Borough President of Brooklyn In My Head, and Joseph O’Neill, author of some book people are reading on the subway these days, read their contributions, and tak about writing them.

In this issue, Lethem and O’Neill are among several writers to write about photographs of their fathers, and presumably work out their daddy issues through well-toned personal-history prose. Here is Lethem’s.

The first thing you notice is Richard’s (“Rich,” to his friends, like me) quite impressive goatee, round, long hair bellying out like a laundry bag or orange. No wonder Lethem refers to his father as “my idol.”

Lethem’s fiction often deals with people who find themselves cuddling up to the edge of culture, blurring the line between artist and audience: the soul singer down the block and the painter upstairs, in Fortress of Solitude; the retired superhero your wife once dated; the theater genius you have drinks with. There’s this simultaneous sense of upcloseness and astonishment that comes through, in these stories; sort of like Lethem’s account of looking up to his creative bohemian parents, “the coolest”, and their enviable, very adult “gang,” “the leading edge of the world”, which he still can’t quite believe he was so close to.

“Zee relationship mit zee father is veddy interestink, no?”

If your answer is “ja“, if you tend to answer “ja” to such a question, you should go to Housing Works tonight.