Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #160: "A Gentleman's Game" by Jonathan Lethem

From the Sept. 5th issue of The New Yorker...

One of the great things about reading and reviewing the stories in The New Yorker is that it re-introduces you to writers you'd forgotten about or stopped reading for whatever reason, like Jonathan Lethem. I wasn't crazy about his most recent novel, so I fell of the Lethem Train for a while. This story has me determined to get back on it.

I'm in a "bullet-point" kind of mood today. So here are some bullet-points about Jonathan Lethem and this story:

  • Lethem is like the Zelig or Forrest Gump of literature: One minute he's published his 26th novel, next minute he's getting his PhD from UCLA for writing a critical thesis on the plays of Graham Greene, next he's writing the preface for a new addition of the collected stories of Paul Theroux, next he's working on translating Gide's The Immoralist into Yiddish, next he's serving on the board of the Pen Hemingway committee, next he's working on a biography of Hemingway's second wife, etc. etc. etc.This, folks, is the hardest working (and smartest) man in Contemporary Letters.
  • The main character in this story, Bruno, is a professional gambler who lives in Singapore and makes money playing backgammon. A chance encounter with an old childhood acquaintance causes him to revisit and even re-live some of his past he's tried to forget because it was either painful or just plain mundane. It all turns out o.k. though.
  • When I was studying for my MFA I met and had drinks with Jonathan Lethem. He's cool. 
  • This story is an excerpt from Lethem's upcoming novel A Gambler's Anatomy
  • Reading Lethem makes me a.) want to start writing more, b.) want to start reading more Jonathan Lethem
  • "A Gentlemen's Game" is a neat story about identity and the place where our imagined selves and our real selves collide, and the exotic setting and odd characters make it a pretty fun read. 


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 1

These questions come to us from Grace. Thanks for sending your questions!! Answers below:
What is the most thrilling mystery you have read and/or watched?
The Eiger Sanction (book and film) by Trevanian is what's coming to mind. International espionage. Mountain-climbing assassins. Evil albino masterminds. Sex. Not a bad combination. Warning, this is completely a "guy" movie, and the film (feat. Clint Eastwood) is priceless 70s action movie cheese. But in case that's your thing...
What's the deal with Narcos?
Narcos is a Netflix show about the rise and fall (but mostly the fall) of Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thus far there are two seasons of 10 episodes each. RIYL: The film Blow, starring Johnny Depp; the book Zombie City, by Thomas Katz; the movie Goodfellas; true crime; anything involving the drug trade. My brief review: Season 1 started out a bit slow and I know a bunch of people who never made it past the first few episodes. Some of the acting is a…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…