Jonathan Lethem on His Fearsome Portrait of the American Left

Interviews with people who shape our culture.
Sept. 24 2013 1:02 PM

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.  

Videos curated by Slate staff.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM Where Pregnant Women Aren't Allowed to Work After 36 Weeks  
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.