“READ JONATHAN LETHEM!” says the Universe.

I’m not a believer in mystical, magical stuff, but I do have a sorta spiritualistic love for the cool patterns of existence. One of my Most Favorite Things is when a series of coincidences, decisions and intuitions all combine like magic (emphasis on the “like”) to open up a new path or new experience.

Such a thing happened to me recently. Turns out the universe wants me to go on a journey into Jonathan Lethem’s books. I’d never even heard of Lethem before, but when the universe speaks, I say, Yes Ma’am.

So here’s what happened:

I was staying in my manfriend’s apartment while he was away eating bagels in New York when my book started to run out of pages, so I quickly ordered a Philip K. Dick biography. But DHL, Germany’s inconsistent postal service, kept bouncing my package around to wrong addresses, for a whole excruciating WEEK.

So I found myself in the scary and alien situation of staring at the walls with nothing to read (which hasn’t happened to me since I was about six years old, probably). No worries; I raided my chap’s room and found a collection of short stories to tide me over. The collection was called The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye.

Holy shit. Amazing. I read all night and tweeted about my major new discovery the next day. Something about Lethem’s writing made me keep thinking, Oh man, this is it. THIS is how I want to write one day.

But I couldn’t quite figure out what it was exactly about his stories that was grabbing me so hard. I think it’s the seamless mix of fantasy and realism, but there’s something else too. So I started doing stalkerish fan-girl things like following every link on his Wiki page, looking up interviews, copying down my favorite quotes… I wanted to know how he learned to write, what his process was, what his influences were, what his childhood pets were named. It was full-on new-artist infatuation. You know the kind.

I discovered one of his biggest influences is Philip K. Dick; Letham has read his entire works 5 times! Mr. Dick (I’m so glad I got to say that in a nerdy post about books) is one of my favorite authors and the man I would have been reading about if DHL had actually delivered my package on time. Nicely played, Universe.

So then my chap returns from the US with book-presents — swoon — and guess what? Out of all the millions of possible books he could have returned with, including safe choices like just about any science fiction author, he came back with a Jonathan Lethem book (which, btw, he’d picked out before seeing my fan-girl tweet).

AND it’s not just any Jonathan Lethem book: it’s The Disappointment Artist, where Lethem deconstructs his own writing and talks about all the things that have influenced him. In other words, a possible fulfillment to my new obsession. Here, listen to this from the back cover: “Lethem illuminates the process by which a child invents himself as a writer, and as a human being, through a series of approaches to the culture around him.”

Kachink! (<-that is the sound of several little cogs of the universe meshing together perfectly).

I get such a kick out of these kinds of perfectly timed situations… little planetary conjunctions of minds: in this case, mine, my chap’s, and a total stranger’s. And now I get to go on a new adventure to explore some awesome art. Danke schoen, Universe!

 

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