cover image More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers

More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers

Jonathan Lethem. Melville House, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-161219-603-9

The title of Lethem’s varied collection of book reviews, introductions, and literary essays will surely resonate with any dedicated reader. Curious and adventurous readers will find a plethora of reading suggestions as Lethem (A Gambler’s Anatomy) talks about authors old and new. Indeed, his dedication to contemporary writers is the main note here, though he does delve into some canonical figures, such as Charles Dickens. And his incisive, colorful, and insightful encapsulations of what makes their works special are beguiling, whether he is describing Steven Millhauser’s “coolly feverish” prose or alerting readers to the “brief, elliptical, and precise” pre–Remains of the Day novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. Even as a critic, he reads with enthusiasm. In his introduction to Tanguy Viel’s Beyond Suspicion, he writes, “The book’s reader will meet its opening pages with an intake of breath destined not to be completely released until its last lines have been reached.” He is particularly good at arousing interest in forgotten or obscure authors. Also running through his writing is a distinct love of his home town, New York City, and of New York authors, such as Vivian Gornick and Daniel Fuchs. An enthusiastic introduction by Christopher Boucher precedes the collection. (Mar.)