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New Yorker Fiction Review #239: "The Afterlife" by Jonathan Lethem

people walking

Review of a short story from the May 18, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...

It's a complete coincidence that the last short story I reviewed on this blog was also a story by Jonathan Lethem. There have been at least a dozen issues of The New Yorker since then. Apparently Letham has a new novel -- The Arrest -- coming out in November. Which might (or might not) explain the advance publicity.

Anyway, "The Afterlife" is a plotless but fun piece of imagination concerning one possible scenario of what the afterlife might look like, through the eyes of a famous sculptor who gets sent there a bit prematurely. As always, what Lethem brings to the table is a trip directly inside the main character's head -- even in the third person -- giving you thoughts and feelings to identify with, and bringing some of the same "everyday" sort of worries and concerns into something that is completely out of the realm of daily experience. It's a short, fun read, and that's the least that can be said about it.

The most that can be said about it is that it just goes to demonstrate what a vivid and live imagination Jonathan Lethem has, and his range as a writer. I know I like to gush about Lethem being one of the greats of our time (and that I've actually met him (had to get that in there)), but he really and truly is, and anyone who wants to be current on modern day literature owes his work at least a passing look. The good news is he's got plenty of it out there, in a variety of genres.

Even if this was simply part of Lethem's agent's plan to keep him on everyone's radar screen in advance of the publication of his next book in the Fall...well...it worked.

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