Men and Cartoons

Author: Jonathan Lethem

Type: Fiction, short stories

Published: 2002

I read it: June 2011

men and cartoons

This is my first taste of Lethem’s fiction, and I picked a great book. Nine solid stories in a volume with beautifully quirky cover art that is appropriate to the tone of the fiction. The title suggests the skewed reality of the characters and the settings they find themselves in. Half the stories have an odd, magical realism twist and the other half feature men stumbling through parties trailing old lovers or opening up their sad insides to a friend.

But he doesn’t use a downer style common to some middle-aged writers: two of the stories feature superheroes (one “real” and one playing dress up), every story is funny in its own way, and Lethem writes both clearly and poetically. He offers lines like, “School buses lined his block every morning, like vast tipped orange-juice cartons spilling out the human vitamin of youthful lunacy” and “The sun had arrived just to depart, to throw a few long shadows around as though it had worked the whole day.” All of the stories are deserving Saturday morning selections for adults to read while their kids watch cartoons.

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