Jonathan Lethem on the Magic of Writing About the Talking Heads

Interviews with people who shape our culture.
Sept. 27 2013 5:25 PM

What Do You Do When an Album Haunts You?

Jonathan Lethem on why he authored an entire book about a Talking Heads album.

Jonathan Lethem’s cultural criticism has at times sparked even livelier conversations than his novels. Perhaps the best example is Fear of Music, his book about the namesake Talking Heads album that ran as part of the “33 1/3” series of short nonfiction. In the final part of his sit-down with Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, Lethem says he felt compelled to write about the record because it continued to shake him in ways he didn’t understand.

Part 1 of the interview focused on Lethem’s scathing look at leftists in his new novel, Dissident Gardens, while Part 2 concerned the book’s purported shift in tone from his earlier work. In Part 3, Lethem, a college dropout, explained why he is now a college professor.

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