The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem - review by Michael Estorick

Michael Estorick

Originality Shackled by Insecurity

The Disappointment Artist


Faber & Faber 149pp £10.99

We reveal ourselves by indirection, by asides and gestures perhaps more than by questions or statements concerning what we are, or think we are, like. Almost to the end of this brief but dense memoir I was prepared to give the author, a prolific and highly regarded American novelist (and, ironically, for one seemingly unable to forget anything, editor of The Vintage Book of Amnesia), the benefit of the doubt. So what if he’s obsessional – so at times am I. Who cares if not all his interests coincide with mine – perhaps he can convince me that they are no less interesting for that. But then, two pages from the end, he writes this: 

These confessions have begun to bore me, and I only want to make a few more. The adult life I’ve made – getting paid, reader, to tell you these things – bears a suspicious resemblance to the rooms [the book-lined rooms he has always occupied] themselves. My prose is a

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RLF - March