Conversations With Slate

A Scathing Portrait of the American Left? 

Jonathan Lethem on the three generations of “helplessly human” leftists in his new novel. 

Jonathan Lethem travels from his more familiar Brooklyn to Queens to begin his first new book in four years, Dissident Gardens. In an interview with the novelist, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg says the tale of three left-wing generations is “totally unsympathetic to the American left,” but Lethem says he just wanted to write about people—specifically, people devoted to the idea of changing the world. Lethem also delves into Dissident Gardens familiar shades of autobiography, including his grandmother’s erstwhile apartment in Queens and his self-described family of hippies who “marched around a lot.” Though the new novel concerns another microsection of life in New York City, Lethem also tells Weisberg his reputation as the Brooklyn writer is flattering but unearned. Check back this week for three other segments of the interview, including more about the new book, Lethem’s famous writing on the Talking Heads, and his newfound role as a teacher.