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A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's visi A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's vision. Sometimes firmly grounded in reality, and other times spinning off into utterly original imaginary worlds, this book brings together marvelous characters with incisive social commentary and thought provoking allegories.  
      A visionary and creative collection that only Jonathan Lethem could have produced, the Vintage edition features two stories not published in the hardcover edition, "The Shape We're In" and "Interview with the Crab. 


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A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's visi A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's vision. Sometimes firmly grounded in reality, and other times spinning off into utterly original imaginary worlds, this book brings together marvelous characters with incisive social commentary and thought provoking allegories.  
      A visionary and creative collection that only Jonathan Lethem could have produced, the Vintage edition features two stories not published in the hardcover edition, "The Shape We're In" and "Interview with the Crab. 

30 review for Men and Cartoons

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    A collection that moves comfortably between different genres, often slipping in the crevices between them. Some stories are inevitably more satisfying than others; the one about that spray can and the one about the goatman are pretty unforgettable. Because of their insistence on specific themes or images - Brooklyn life, reconciling childhood experience with your adult self - several of these read like companion pieces to The Fortress of Solitude.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This is my first read of Jonathan Lethem. I heard his story "The Spray" on the NPR show Selected Shorts, and I was rather impressed, so I tracked down this collection. I am not familiar with any of his novels. What impressed me about "The Spray" when I heard it, and also when I read it, was its easy style--a couple find that their apartment has been robbed, but when the police come, the couple find that they are not sure about what has been taken, so the police spray the apartment with a substan This is my first read of Jonathan Lethem. I heard his story "The Spray" on the NPR show Selected Shorts, and I was rather impressed, so I tracked down this collection. I am not familiar with any of his novels. What impressed me about "The Spray" when I heard it, and also when I read it, was its easy style--a couple find that their apartment has been robbed, but when the police come, the couple find that they are not sure about what has been taken, so the police spray the apartment with a substance that makes what's missing appear in a salmon-colored glow. When they leave, though, the police leave the spray cannister behind, and the couple are curious to see what happens when they spray each other. The story moves forward very easily and naturally, obeying its own logic, but by the end it becomes clear that everything has been turning on an idea about loss and the inability to truly let go of things. But Lethem doesn't strong-arm the metaphor on the story. Everything seems to move along quite naturally, while by the end the overriding purpose becomes clear, and this purpose remains even when looking back through the story. The best works in this collection move with that same sense of authority and ease. "The Vision" is a tale about a man re-encountering someone he knew in his childhood who once thought we was a superhero, but now the narrator has to deal with the oddball as a neighbor, and even worse, as the guest of this man who is hosting a party to play a game called Mafia. Keeping with the comic book motif, "Super Goat Man" is about a man's encounters with a failed comic book hero from childhood through their like-minded academic careers. These are the strongest stories of this collection. But others just fall flat and don't seem to sustain the kind of control and laxity that made the previously mentioned stories such winners. "Planet Big Zero" is a rather dully-conflicted tale about a man and his unlikable childhod friend, and "The Glasses" may be too dependent on social commentary (maybe) to see much drive through the piece. "The Dystopianist" is quite funny, but ultimately doesn't seem to pay off by the end. And the stories that were added to this printing after the hardcover offer little reason to seek out this particular edition. "Interview with the Crab" has some interesting tensions about reality versus actuality (odd to say, when the title is quite literal to the premise of the story), but a lot of these stories read a little too much like T.C. Boyle--a lot of imagnation, but little to hang it on. Though the three excellent stories in here may be worth the purchase itself, as a whole this collection doesn't satisfy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Seemingly out of nowhere, I've been on a big Jonathan Lethem kick the past week or two. I started with his novel Motherless Brooklyn, a overall good read with a few moments of excellence. Next I found an incredible essay he wrote on the subject of plagiarism entitled, "The ecstasy of influence: a plagiarism." This I highly recommend. And so finally, my Lethem kick comes to a close with his collection of short stories: Men and Cartoons. I'm not normally a big fan of short stories; I believe the g Seemingly out of nowhere, I've been on a big Jonathan Lethem kick the past week or two. I started with his novel Motherless Brooklyn, a overall good read with a few moments of excellence. Next I found an incredible essay he wrote on the subject of plagiarism entitled, "The ecstasy of influence: a plagiarism." This I highly recommend. And so finally, my Lethem kick comes to a close with his collection of short stories: Men and Cartoons. I'm not normally a big fan of short stories; I believe the goal or intention of short stories is as unique as that of the novel, the poem, the play, etc. and typically short stories don't really speak to me. (Don't expect me to tell you what I think the "goal or intention of short stories" is - I don't want to be wrong on the internet.) Really, before Men and Cartoons, the only short stories I'd profess to legitimately enjoying would probably be a few by Jorge Luis Borges (off the top of my head, "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" and "Funes the Memorious") and Flannery O'Connor ("Everything that Rises Must Converge"). But, to finally get to the point here - Lethem has some really great stories here! There's a big sense of nostalgia and let's say "unexpected uncertainty" throughout. The narrators seem to all be thinking, very geniunely and earnestly, "But, I thought..." - a feeling with which I most surely empathize. Maybe the narrators are overthinking; maybe they're overfeeling. Maybe they aren't over-anything (both in terms of "doing too much" and "being over someone/thing) but are simply living in this crazy world and trying to make a little bit of sense of it. Who could blame them for that? My favorites in the collection (nine total) were "The Vision," "Vivian Relf," and "The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is the second book of Lethem's that I've read. I'm finding that he has an odd sensibility that I like. This is a collection of short stories that hover on the edge of science fiction and Twilight Zone. From "Access Fantasy", where the have nots are stuck in a world of the perpetual traffic jam and one of the only ways to get out is to be advertising for the "haves", to "The Glasses", a customer comes to a standoff with his optician over his new glasses, to "Interview with the Crab", a send u This is the second book of Lethem's that I've read. I'm finding that he has an odd sensibility that I like. This is a collection of short stories that hover on the edge of science fiction and Twilight Zone. From "Access Fantasy", where the have nots are stuck in a world of the perpetual traffic jam and one of the only ways to get out is to be advertising for the "haves", to "The Glasses", a customer comes to a standoff with his optician over his new glasses, to "Interview with the Crab", a send up of TV and fame culture where Lethem goes to interview a giant crab who was the star of a sitcom and reality tv show. Out of the 11 stories, only a couple were a miss for me. Would recommend, if you enjoy odd, slightly bent tales. S: 1/26/14 F: 2/13/14 (19 Days)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Lu

    This book was okay. I’ll be honest, I was not able to completely recall everything from the book, as I would read massive amounts of pages in each sitting, but overall it was entertaining. There were some amusing situations and bits of the book that made it enjoyable. Whether it was a predicament dealing with smudging glasses or meeting someone that seems oddly familiar, the book always dealt a pleasant read. My only complaint is that the back covers tells that the book is funny and amusing, whi This book was okay. I’ll be honest, I was not able to completely recall everything from the book, as I would read massive amounts of pages in each sitting, but overall it was entertaining. There were some amusing situations and bits of the book that made it enjoyable. Whether it was a predicament dealing with smudging glasses or meeting someone that seems oddly familiar, the book always dealt a pleasant read. My only complaint is that the back covers tells that the book is funny and amusing, which forces me to subconsciously raise my standards. As such, bits and stories from this book that would have made me snicker or laugh bare no reaction. Good book overall.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    In Jonathan Lethem’s home of Brooklyn, New York, on 5th Avenue, there lives a reassuringly odd, tough-looking store called Brooklyn Superhero Supply. Set, when I first saw it, along a row of graying or graffitied businesses, Superhero Supply (”Ever vigilant, ever true”) features “fully serviced capery, workspace for research and development, and industrial-grade services for superpowers,” whatever those might be. Superhero Supply (actually a storefront for social work by the publisher/literary ma In Jonathan Lethem’s home of Brooklyn, New York, on 5th Avenue, there lives a reassuringly odd, tough-looking store called Brooklyn Superhero Supply. Set, when I first saw it, along a row of graying or graffitied businesses, Superhero Supply (”Ever vigilant, ever true”) features “fully serviced capery, workspace for research and development, and industrial-grade services for superpowers,” whatever those might be. Superhero Supply (actually a storefront for social work by the publisher/literary magazine McSweeney’s), like Lethem’s latest collection of short stories Men and Cartoons, evidences growing demand for the packaging, for adult comsumption, comics, cartoons, and superheroism. One hesitates to say these point toward growing popular acceptance–it’s hard to imagine one of these stores more than twenty miles from a college campus–but certainly a large and diverse enough population exists to support businesses more ambitious than the small, obstinate comicbook stores of old. In my New England, as well, Newbury Comics (”A wicked good time”) thrives at no fewer than 26 locations, in part because it knows how to exploit a market segment made up of college students, twixters, webcomic junkies, Simpsons fans, concert-goers, punks, ironists, and anyone else who would have $20 to drop on a particular object just to experience the thrill of being asked, “Mehe, funny. Where’d you get that?” Men and Cartoons is meant for this market slice. It reads as very experimental for a writer as trusted by publishers as Lethem–author of the exciting, discombobulating novel Motherless Brooklyn and of The Fortress of Solitude among others. The stories are very short, the writing and narratives hurried, and the packager’s proofreading light. In fact, it reads exactly as what it is: a slapped-together collection of stories already placed elsewhere in magazines and journals trying to keep their page-counts down, a book seemingly forced to publication by the contractual obligations of both parties. Just a guess. Nevertheless, the stories are engaging, sometimes illuminating, and ultimately valuable for anyone interested in the trade between the port cities of literary fiction, pop culture, and maturing comicdom. In Men and Cartoons’ first story, “The Vision,” the adult narrator finds a childhood classmate, who in youth had branded himself a superhero, cape and all, has moved in nextdoor. The girlfriend of Adam Cressner, nee The Vision, invites the narrator to a game of mafia (allowing Lethem to use many authors’ beloved crutch, the house-party-as-tension-builder). Mafia runs and sputters and finally drains the party-goers of their life, at which point the narrator suggests a favorite drinking game (of underage drinkers, at least) called I Never. To defend a flirting-partner after she was shamed by Cressners’ I-Neverism, the narrator determines to out The Vision’s childhood identity. A fine, clean, if predictable story but one exemplary of Lethem’s theme in this collection, “The Vision,” smashes together childhood and adulthood. In fact, it’s exemplary of a whole swath of contemporary fiction, one that writes the coming-of-age story backwards: characters, guided by other, less experienced characters, have epiphanies that hurl them with great suddenness backwards into their own childhoods. Another Lethem crutch, appearing in Motherless Brooklyn, in “The Vision,” in the second piece, “Access Fantasy,” and in “Vivian Relf,” is the introduction of a pixie. Lethem’s character’s love interests are always small, half reticent and half bold, and physically intriguing. For example, of Doe in “The Vision,” Lethem writes, “Her tiny mouth was perfect apart from one incisor that seemed to have been inserted sideways for variation, like a domino”. His women reflect the ideal that has weirdly taken hold of twixter boys’ minds, the girl with the pretty face but funky hair, or with immaculate thrift-store style, or with a playfulness at turns beguiling and controlling. They’re girls who remind boys of youth. Men and cartoons. In all, the stories bounce between a traditional realism and a comic-rhetoric-infused one. (The book’s dustjacket borrows the look of comics’ original brown-paper coverings.) The stories are episodic, like comics. Often you can just about see the bubble above a person’s head. The hardest, keenest story in Men and Cartoons then is “Super Goat Man.” Super Goat Man himself is the comic equivalent of the one-hit wonder–he had appeared very briefly in a very obscure comic but managed to parlay that into a professorship at a New England college. You heard me. “Super Goat Man” suspends, like a good comic or sci-fi piece does, the reader’s disbelief in ways the reader didn’t think were possible. The character, as a superhero, is called upon to save a life but fails in full view of the college’s student body. It’s a painful overlaying of human nature on superhero nature, rather than the more common other way around. Men and Cartoons isn’t without competition in its themes. The popularity of Hellboy and Spiderman in the theaters and the resiliency several years after its publication of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay shows that the infusion of childhood-conscious art into adult-market-conscious genres, businesses, and, well, adults has a ton of vitality. While Lethem will always be stronger in his longer writing, the short fiction in Men and Cartoons will stand on their own as fine examples of twixter literature’s exploration and growth.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dixon

    Super Goat Man was the standout story here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Neu

    I struggled in deciding whether to give this two or three stars. On one hand, Lethem is a brilliant writer and there is much to learn from his technique. This book definitely deserves a much higher rating if based objectively. However, I decided to go for the subject rating. Yes, his writing is excellent. Yes, his stories are very well constructed. However, I just didn't enjoy them at all. That's a strictly preference-based review and probably of no help whatsoever if you're trying to decide whe I struggled in deciding whether to give this two or three stars. On one hand, Lethem is a brilliant writer and there is much to learn from his technique. This book definitely deserves a much higher rating if based objectively. However, I decided to go for the subject rating. Yes, his writing is excellent. Yes, his stories are very well constructed. However, I just didn't enjoy them at all. That's a strictly preference-based review and probably of no help whatsoever if you're trying to decide whether or not to read it. In short, these stories are actively addressing and working with the absurd. They're bizarre stories and done quite well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A series of experimental short stories featuring a variety of writing styles, unreliable narrators, quirky characters, a mish-mash of bizarre sci-fi elements and an underlying theme regarding comic-book superheros. Some of these stories are better than others, but none is a masterpiece. A quick read and worthwhile for the experimentation alone; odds are there's something in there that'll give you an idea for your own writing. A series of experimental short stories featuring a variety of writing styles, unreliable narrators, quirky characters, a mish-mash of bizarre sci-fi elements and an underlying theme regarding comic-book superheros. Some of these stories are better than others, but none is a masterpiece. A quick read and worthwhile for the experimentation alone; odds are there's something in there that'll give you an idea for your own writing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joslyn

    his style/sensibility doesn't quite sit right with me for some reason, but i did like a few stories more than the rest. and imagine my shock to open it and the first story takes place on the very block where i now live (and sat reading it)! his style/sensibility doesn't quite sit right with me for some reason, but i did like a few stories more than the rest. and imagine my shock to open it and the first story takes place on the very block where i now live (and sat reading it)!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vonia

    A great compilation of short stories, all imaginative, whimsical, & creative. Each story has the reader thinking, "What If?", transporting one to childhood fantasies. All are tied loosely and/or directly to superpowers, cartoons, and/or comic book heroes. A brief, but fun read! A great compilation of short stories, all imaginative, whimsical, & creative. Each story has the reader thinking, "What If?", transporting one to childhood fantasies. All are tied loosely and/or directly to superpowers, cartoons, and/or comic book heroes. A brief, but fun read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: Extra! Super Goat Man botches rescue...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Two or three of these stories haunt me, all are memorable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Beck

    Meh, Lethem has better books and better short stories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    Lethem is a clever writer, audacious in his blending of genres (especially good at incorporating Raymond Chandler’s mannered Marlowe-esque narrator into any setting), and he integrates high- and low-culture elements with ease. I have liked some of his novels quite a bit (Girl in Landscape and Gun, with Occasional Music) and admired others for their more literary ambitions (The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn). In this collection of short stories, cleverness appears to be Lethem’s fa Lethem is a clever writer, audacious in his blending of genres (especially good at incorporating Raymond Chandler’s mannered Marlowe-esque narrator into any setting), and he integrates high- and low-culture elements with ease. I have liked some of his novels quite a bit (Girl in Landscape and Gun, with Occasional Music) and admired others for their more literary ambitions (The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn). In this collection of short stories, cleverness appears to be Lethem’s fall back position; if there is nothing else going on, at least one can say of a story that it had an interesting/offbeat premise/slant. —The Vision begins with an appealing invocation of nostalgic recollection, proceeds through some interesting contemporary social interactions (party games), and then ends portentously with declarations that have no meaning for anyone but the narrator. —Access Fantasy does a good job of creating a peculiar world predicated on traffic jams, a tiered society, and continuous advertising/consumption. By the time the narrator discovers that his search for a murderer will end in more murder, the appurtenances of this new world have become irrelevant. —The Spray offers up another gimmick reality, one in which an aerosol mist that lingers for 24 hours is used by the police to detect things that are missing. The further twist in this story is that each character reveals infidelities. The imagery is fascinating, but I found the revelation little more than whimsical. —Vivian Relf returns us to the past-meets-present sensibility of The Vision, and a sequence of chance meetings accrete significance only to be shattered by the nasty pettiness/jealousy of a husband. —In another invocation of past-meets-present, the cartoonist in Planet Big Zero finds that he and his friend have grown apart, but in this case, it’s more a case of doppelganger or secret sharer, and the alienated/disaffected friend is a slow-to-be-discarded aspect of the narrator himself. —In the story The Glasses, Lethem tip-toes around the concept of racism cum customer service represented in an account of an optician who attempts to appease a customer who will not be appeased. —The Dystopianist imagines a job where a guy has the job of envisioning things that will point up how things are fated to go wrong in the world, and it turns out that his greatest nemesis is a former childhood acquaintance (they were both the victims of schoolyard bullies) whose role in life is to describe how perfect the world is, which in turn makes a reader feel his own failure. In the midst of a session of inspired torment about suicide, the moment is interrupted (a la Coleridge and Xanadu) by a knock at the door. —Super Goat Man is another nostalgic evocation of growing up with the “literature” of comics and superheroes. The lives of a resigned superhero, Super Goat Man, and the narrator are entwined, and at many milestones, the narrator confronts Super Goat Man’s presence and its meaning. In their final encounter, the narrator—to assuage feelings of doubt, impotence, and unworthiness—in front of his wife mocks the frail superannuated husk of Super Goat Man. —The National Anthem is an epistolary short story, with a single letter establishing a dueling duality with a life-long friend, evoking the divergent paths they’ve taken and shallow-buried resentments. —Kafka is paid homage in The Shape We’re In, and it’s in a slow revelation through quotidian detail that we’re made aware the characters are living inside a giant three-dimensional representation of a lion, which, a la the Trojan Horse, has finally, after thirty years, been pulled into the center of their foe’s happy community. Shaking off rust, the inhabitants of the lion prepare to overwhelm their foes… —Another tribute to Kafka is Interview with the Crab, where the journalist narrator recounts in mock-serio form his celebrity interview of the reclusive, rich star of a hit tv comedy, a giant crab so large it has to upend itself sideways to get through doorways. Despite the journalist’s attempts to praise the crab’s influences, the crab is more crabby than comic. As I say, lots of clever stuff, much of it “nerd” stuff that disguises and stands in for the common social world (schoolyard, neighborhood, sports) the narrator/author/nerd missed out on. The affective range in these stories (considerably more limited than the cleverness) makes me wonder if Lethem is not perhaps trying too hard to prove that he can fashion a real, thinking/feeling adult out of one’s childhood legos.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Shortly after I started reading Jonathan Lethem's 2004 collection Men and Cartoons, I discovered that a previous owner of the particular second-hand copy I'd acquired had mutilated it, annotating page after page in bilious green highlighter and indelible black ink (rather than a more respectful pencil). They were uniformly obvious and banal marginalia to boot, where they were legible at all, and I did as well as I could to ignore them in favor of the stories themselves. Fortunately, Jonathan Leth Shortly after I started reading Jonathan Lethem's 2004 collection Men and Cartoons, I discovered that a previous owner of the particular second-hand copy I'd acquired had mutilated it, annotating page after page in bilious green highlighter and indelible black ink (rather than a more respectful pencil). They were uniformly obvious and banal marginalia to boot, where they were legible at all, and I did as well as I could to ignore them in favor of the stories themselves. Fortunately, Jonathan Lethem has a superpower, perhaps acquired through the nibbling of a radioactive silverfish—the uncanny ability to weave a web of words that can enthrall to the exclusion of all else. However, Lethem's power is not universally reliable. Even though its brevity is a recommendation—this volume clocks in at a mere 160 pages—I like Lethem more at novel length, and would not necessarily hand Men and Cartoons to someone as an introduction to his work. The short stories collected here are brief, often inconclusive, and frequently surreal. They certainly fit in with Lethem's overall oeuvre, but their tone is uniformly nostalgic—wistful and backward-looking—even when their trappings are futuristic: "The Vision" Adam Cressner was an oddball who wore a red cape, like his comic-book hero The Vision, to his fifth-grade gym class at P.S. 29. But "The Vision" isn't really about Adam. It's about Joel Porush, an altogether more typical child, who was in Adam's gym class. And it's about how and when—or even if—one should let go of childish things. "Access Fantasy" The most overtly science-fictional tale in Men and Cartoons, this one seems like a throwback to the "if this goes on—" mode of SF so common in the 1950s and 1960s. The freeway turned into a perpetual parking lot—that's an image we've seen before, more than once. But Lethem goes in a darker direction in "Access Fantasy," imagining a barrier that keeps cars and drivers alike entrapped, turned into squatters in their own vehicles, save for a lucky few... "The Spray" A vignette, sudden as a spritz from a spray can, whose science-fictional gimmick is hardly even the point—"The Spray" is another story about how people manage their pasts (or fail to do so), this time when they've been literally made visible. "Vivian Relf" Chance meetings are significant, the stuff of destiny... aren't they? "Vivian Relf" explores the difference between what matters and what we think matters—and how even the same encounters may not have identical impacts for everyone involved. "Planet Big Zero" People either grow and change, or they don't. What happens when one of the former encounters one of the latter, after years of separation? "The Glasses" Like "The Spray," this is another vignette with an unusual object as pretext for the scene. "The Glasses" would, it seems to me, be really good performed as a one-act play—with, unlike "The Spray," no special effects required. "The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door" The Dystopianist and his rival turn out to be not that different after all. A sheep is involved. "Super Goat Man" "Super Goat Man" is in some ways very similar to "The Vision"—it also involves a mundane narrator who encounters an extraordinary individual from his youth again after years of separation. This one ends with much more of a bang, though. "The National Anthem" A letter from E. to M., almost entirely about A.—although E. didn't want it to be so much about her. Again, a story focused on the past, on regret and loss. "The National Anthem" was an anticlimactic way to end Men and Cartoons, too; I would have swapped this one with "Super Goat Man," had the choice been up to me. That's it; that's all—nine stories, varying widely in detail but unified in tone. If you go looking for Men and Cartoons, may you find a copy that's pristine... Lethem's words deserve no less.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brent Woo

    An uneven collection for the completionist. First half of stories are great, then the rest are bizarre and sprawling."The Spray" is a great example of "you get one lie" per story, start off with a bit of real magic and two very serious people and see where it goes. "Vivian Relf" might be my favorite, a straightforward very human tale of yearning could-bes and what-ifs. It's not very characteristic of Lethem, though, the closest it gets to anything I've read of his is As She Climbed Across the Ta An uneven collection for the completionist. First half of stories are great, then the rest are bizarre and sprawling."The Spray" is a great example of "you get one lie" per story, start off with a bit of real magic and two very serious people and see where it goes. "Vivian Relf" might be my favorite, a straightforward very human tale of yearning could-bes and what-ifs. It's not very characteristic of Lethem, though, the closest it gets to anything I've read of his is As She Climbed Across the Table. "Planet Big Zero", again oddly straightforward and normal, and somehow sad, about how (if) historical friendships survive aging. There is a particular set of friends from elementary and middle school that this story makes me think about, and it makes me sad. "The Glasses" is great, it elicits that great uncomfortable emotion I can only describe by narrowing my eyebrows in concern and giggling awkwardly. Watching an embarrassing self-inflicted trainwreck? Dunno. "Super Goat Man" is probably intended to be the main dish, as it's set with Coover's Lethem's favorite trope of superhero in a normal world. The rest lost me, although "Interview with the Crab" reminded me of one of the 'interviews' I just read in More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers that fit in this sort of minigenre of 'uncomfortable, surreal, uncooperative interviews' Lethem seems to like.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Sillyman

    Some of the weirdest writing I've read, but also some of the most entertaining. Lethem's stories are always strange, surreal, and unexpected. Each of the tales feels like it's own dream, twisting about unexpectedly. And like a dream I sometimes had trouble following or understanding which only furthered my fascination with this book. I already picked up one of his novels 'Fortress of Solitude' and I plan on devouring all I can get my hands on. Stories that most stood out; Access Fantasy Super Goat Some of the weirdest writing I've read, but also some of the most entertaining. Lethem's stories are always strange, surreal, and unexpected. Each of the tales feels like it's own dream, twisting about unexpectedly. And like a dream I sometimes had trouble following or understanding which only furthered my fascination with this book. I already picked up one of his novels 'Fortress of Solitude' and I plan on devouring all I can get my hands on. Stories that most stood out; Access Fantasy Super Goat Man This Shape Were In Interview with the Crab The Glasses

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was an uneven collection for me, and a little bit tedious maybe. I thought I’d move through it faster. The narrators’ voices started to blend together. I loved the humour in Glasses (perhaps made much better through the excellent voice actor on Audible), the tenderness in The Vision, the aggression in The Dystopionist, and the “unheimlich” quality of Vivian Relf. I’ll have to return again to Access Fantasy and The Spray and maybe update the review. Lethem captures ambition, disappointment, This was an uneven collection for me, and a little bit tedious maybe. I thought I’d move through it faster. The narrators’ voices started to blend together. I loved the humour in Glasses (perhaps made much better through the excellent voice actor on Audible), the tenderness in The Vision, the aggression in The Dystopionist, and the “unheimlich” quality of Vivian Relf. I’ll have to return again to Access Fantasy and The Spray and maybe update the review. Lethem captures ambition, disappointment, jealousy, and pettiness very well. Excellent listening on Audible.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marcos

    Jonathan Lethem's Men and Cartoons is at once a really comic and wry read, full of witticisms and self-depricating humor that borders on Chekovian sadness. "The Vision" begins with all fun and games until a woman named Doe confesses to having killed a cat, an admission of animal cruelty; The Spray is an erotic and sexy tale of a couple who finds a mysterious spray after their house has been robbed. After literally spraying the air, the images of their respective former lovers appear in a salmon- Jonathan Lethem's Men and Cartoons is at once a really comic and wry read, full of witticisms and self-depricating humor that borders on Chekovian sadness. "The Vision" begins with all fun and games until a woman named Doe confesses to having killed a cat, an admission of animal cruelty; The Spray is an erotic and sexy tale of a couple who finds a mysterious spray after their house has been robbed. After literally spraying the air, the images of their respective former lovers appear in a salmon-colored cloud. Planet Big Zero is reminiscent of Lethem's themes of coming of age, and of lives meeting and falling apart due to time and circumstance: The narrator and his friend Matthew reminisce of a comic they've both started, as they look back on their lives. They separate ways after college, and Matthew becomes a wayward drifter as the narrator is about to break into success as a screenwriter. It definitely reminded me of Mingus and Dylan from "The Fortress of Solitude". I thought of Vivian Ref as a modern adaptation of Chekhov's "The Kiss" where Doran and Vivian meet at three different times: a party, at an airport, and a final dinner party years later. Doran collides in the final scene where he meets Vivan's arrogant and douche of a husband at a dinner party, and where he unexpectedly finds her married to him after his briefly considering making a move in telling her of his affection.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Lethem is a great writer and his stories are well constructed and very imaginative. But I really only enjoyed three of the 11 stories in this collection ('The Vision', 'The Spray' and 'Super Goat Man'), and even dnf-ed one story as I just couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I wouldn't say this is a bad short story collection, but it is just not my style of short stories, especially the more phantasmagorical ones. Lethem is a great writer and his stories are well constructed and very imaginative. But I really only enjoyed three of the 11 stories in this collection ('The Vision', 'The Spray' and 'Super Goat Man'), and even dnf-ed one story as I just couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I wouldn't say this is a bad short story collection, but it is just not my style of short stories, especially the more phantasmagorical ones.

  22. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    An inferior collection to The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye (with one story repeated from that book), feat.ing mainly flippant semi-comic stories like ‘Super Goat Man’ about a retired superhero or ‘The Glasses’ about a mysterious scratch on an angry black man’s lens. The best stories here are ‘Vivian Relf’, a dreamy twist-of-fate tale and ‘Planet Big Zero’ where two old friends awkwardly unkindle their acquaintance.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    A bit uneven, but that's to be expected from a collection like this. I think I liked the shorter pieces best; the long ones felt a bit ungainly, at times, while the shorter ones felt tighter and more focused. It's also interesting to see how themes in a given author's work keep cropping up, like his near-obsession with superheroes. A bit uneven, but that's to be expected from a collection like this. I think I liked the shorter pieces best; the long ones felt a bit ungainly, at times, while the shorter ones felt tighter and more focused. It's also interesting to see how themes in a given author's work keep cropping up, like his near-obsession with superheroes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Rogers

    I've read a fair handful of bro-nerd short story collections lately. Charles Yu, Shawn Vestal, Ray Bradbury, and now Jonathan Lethem–you can practically hear the thick-rimmed glasses on these guys' faces. But of all of these collections, this one was definitely the best. It is, however, fairly strictly about men and cartoons. If that is not your jam... I get it. I've read a fair handful of bro-nerd short story collections lately. Charles Yu, Shawn Vestal, Ray Bradbury, and now Jonathan Lethem–you can practically hear the thick-rimmed glasses on these guys' faces. But of all of these collections, this one was definitely the best. It is, however, fairly strictly about men and cartoons. If that is not your jam... I get it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Seán Higgins

    > I'd give it a 9/10 Really great selection, or cross-section, of Lethem's style in short fiction, utilizing comics, comic book heroes, comix and 50s Sci-Fi "PKD" esthetics. Mostly just fun. Exploding cabbages, Super Goat Man, The Vision and (suicidal) Plath Sheep... > I'd give it a 9/10 Really great selection, or cross-section, of Lethem's style in short fiction, utilizing comics, comic book heroes, comix and 50s Sci-Fi "PKD" esthetics. Mostly just fun. Exploding cabbages, Super Goat Man, The Vision and (suicidal) Plath Sheep...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Lemons

    A collection of stories written by another new yorker. So bored with chaos and success that they can't feel the full weight of failure. After reading this book, I understand why cult leaders always wear sunglasses. A collection of stories written by another new yorker. So bored with chaos and success that they can't feel the full weight of failure. After reading this book, I understand why cult leaders always wear sunglasses.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    I find Lethem pretty entertaining but all but two of these eleven stories are told in the first person and his variance in style is not strong enough for me. He has great ideas which are often left unresolved and the majority of his work seems to be all surface. That said, still a fun book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Enid

    Read everything but the last two stories. Absolutely loved several of them. Writing was concise but impactful. Strange subject matter turned me off at the end but maybe that was just me and my mood today.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vanyo666

    A couple of really good stories, mixed wirh a couple which are less than spectacular and a couple which are downright silly or too postmodern. All of Lethem's obsessions and recurring motifs come out for a spin, which is nice or irritating depending on mood. A couple of really good stories, mixed wirh a couple which are less than spectacular and a couple which are downright silly or too postmodern. All of Lethem's obsessions and recurring motifs come out for a spin, which is nice or irritating depending on mood.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    The Vision I liked, also Vivian Reif, the rest of the stories, I am ashamed to say, I just did not understand.

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