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As She Climbed across the Table
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About the Author

Jonathan Lethem is the author of the novels Gun, with Occasional Music; Amnesia Moon; Girl in Landscape; and Motherless Brooklyn, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also written a collection of stories, The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews

In this witty but telling new work from the author of The Wall of Sky, the Wall of Eye (LJ 8/96), our hapless narrator has completed his dissertation on "Theory as Neurosis in the Professional Scientist" and landed a job at the University of North California at Beauchamp (pronouced beach 'em), where he studies academic envirorments, producing "strong but irrelevant work" and falling for physics professor Alice. But Alice is too caught up in Professor Soft's notorious experiment with a vacuum intelligence called Lack to pay her lover much heed, and soon Lack is the real love of her life. This is not your typically insular campus comedy; Lethem has something bigger in mind, and he succeeds admirably in skewering our pretensions, technological or not, in language that gently mocks the way we hide behind jargon. An ironical book that is, ironically, quite poignant; for public and academic libraries.‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

A poser of warped, philosophical conundrums whose witty, genre-bending novels are set in dysfunctional worlds of the present and near-future, Lethem (Gun, with Occasional Music) situates his fourth novel on the fictional campus of a Northern California university where a physicist, known as Professor Soft, has accidentally opened a hole in space, a portal to an alternate universe. Lethem's narrator is Philip Engstrand, a professor of anthropology studying "academic environments," who is the jealous boyfriend of Alice Coombs, a professor in Soft's lab at work on the physics of "tiny nothingness." Soft's vacuum, nicknamed Lack, is a gaping void that swallows some items into its universe-from an argyle sock to a grizzled lab cat-but ignores others. It soon becomes a campus sensation and Alice its most ardent enthusiast, but as Alice becomes increasingly obsessed with Lack, she retreats from Philip, who struggles mightily to reclaim her. Lethem's characters aren't emotionally complex: they aren't so much people as mobile talking units tumbling down a rabbit hole of sense and meaning while trying to sort out their personal lives. Yet it's hard not to get caught up in Philip's efforts to rescue Alice from Lack, or be unsettled by what happens in the novel's closing chapter, when he ventures too close to the brink. Lethem's reflections on being and nothingness are tempered throughout with a genuine silliness that helps make this one of the most engaging academic spoofs to emerge in the wake of Don DeLillo and David Lodge. (Mar.)

"Exceptionally clever. . . . A book of compelling ideas, of intellectual conflict, of human frailty and desire. And it's funny."--Dallas Morning News "Jonathan Lethem has succeeded in delivering a wonderland on the side of the looking glass," --San Francisco Bay Guardian "Lethem is opening blue sky for American fiction. . . . He is rapidly evolving into his own previously uncataloged species." --Village Voice Literary Supplement "Wickedly funny." --Columbus DIspatch "An oddball tour de force." --Entertainment Weekly

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