The Disappointment Artist: Living Life Through Art — 5 years ago
The Disappointment Artist was my first experience with Jonathan Lethem, an author I’d heard about a lot but never picked up. But looking over this book, a series of essays that were mostly about his favourite films, music, comics, and books, and how they fit into his life and related to the changes his family went through, and I knew it was something I wanted to read. I’m a big pop culture nerd myself.
I first downloaded this from eMusic because I thought it was an unabridged book; turns out it was unabridged selections from the book, read by the author, but that three of the essays had not been recorded. So I got through the audiobook and then took the hardcover out of the library to read the missing essays. I think they picked the best ones for the audiobook, as the three missing ones were good but I didnn’t find them as accessible. Three of my favourite essays were “Defending The Searchers” (one of my favourite movies given a new spin through his life), “13, 1977, 21” (about seeing Star Wars 21 times in the theater when he was 13), and ““Identifying with Your Parents” (about Jack Kirby, one of the immortals of comics). But they’re all worthwhile, to some extent or another.
Lethem’s sentences are a sometimes unsettling combination of crafted and conversational, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like them before. But he sure can write. A mere culture nerd like myself could NEVER hope to write what he wrote, sometimes overblown but always interesting. Because he’s not just writing about movies or comics: he’s writing about life and big issues USING movies or comics as a starting point. Not the book I was expecting, but I liked it because I could see some of myself in Lethem’s writing, albeit much less devastated and talented than him.