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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. 


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