Conversations With Slate

A Book Critic’s Greatest Mistake

Jonathan Lethem on the danger of claiming he’s “growing up.”

Jonathan Lethem’s latest novel Dissident Gardens at first appears more grounded than his other works, trading supernatural elements for a more realist view of the world. But in Part 2 of his interview with Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, Lethem says to look closer. In his unflinching—some would say scathing—narrative about the American left, he says the relentless pull of ideology is just as fantastical as the magic ring in Fortress of Solitude.

Lethem also pushes back on critical notices that argue the book’s more realist tone is indicative of the writer himself growing up, amusingly calling those suggestions “psychobiographical projection.”

In Part 1 of the interview, Lethem cautions readers from interpreting Dissident Gardens as an assault on American leftists. Later this week, two more segments will tackle Lethem’s famous writing on the Talking Heads and his newfound role as a teacher.