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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (470 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Lethem Narrator: Jonathan Lethem Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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What’s a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what’s contemporary culture sup­posed to do with novelists? In The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the “white elephant” role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers. 

A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he’s written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring, and Marlon Brando, as well as on a shelf’s worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Paula Fox, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and oth­ers. And, writing about Brooklyn, his father, and his sojourn through two decades of writing, Lethem sheds an equally strong light on himself.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The writer I most wish was my best friend…Impressively omnivorous new collection of mostly nonfiction…[It] reveal[s] a lively, even manic mind at play across a wide and wonderful series of subjects that are threaded together, mostly, as a kind of autobiography of a would-be writer becoming a struggling writer and then a successful writer while all the while remaining a voracious reader…This book is its own kind of dense and dreamy zoo, and even if you don’t listen to Echo Echo in your basement apartment, you’ll still find much in here to enjoy and know you’re enjoying and know that Lethem knows you’re enjoying as much as he does.”

    National Post

  • “Emotionally engaging and intellectually nimble…Curated selection of essays which thematically add up to more than the sum of its parts…Progressive…Eyebrow-raising…Impassioned…Disarming.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Did I say I love this book? Well, OK then, I love this book....[It] bring[s] a novelist’s sensibility to these essays, to find a through line, to approximate a narrative. It offers a way, in other words, to rethink the collection as a book in its own right—and not just that, but a book about a big idea.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Hefty and remarkable…These byways, all of which make room for eccentric flights as well as proper essays, augment the charm and impact of what Lethem prefers to call an ‘autobiographical collage,’ a phrase he lifts from Vonnegut. This influence seems only natural, for dominating all is Lethem’s prime concern always: the novel…Openhearted, unconventional.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Peppery nonfiction…Provocative tour de force…Thoughtful and rambunctious…Dynamically juxtaposed and connected…to create a jazzy, patchwork memoir…fresh, erudite, zestful, funny frolic in the great fields of creativity.”


  • “Conceptual ambition, sense of purpose and a fan’s evangelical devotion distinguish this collection from the typical novelist’s gathering of nonfiction miscellany…Inevitably a mixed bag, but with high ambitions and a strong sense of purpose.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • One of the 2011 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Steve Horowitt | 2/3/2014

    " As Jonathan Lethem is one of my favorite authors, I was happy to read almost 500 pages of memory, reprinted and unpublished articles and to learn what shaped him into the writer he is today. I especially appreciated the delving into Sci-Fi (Philip K. Dick is another of my favorites and there are whole sections about this man). I also liked his discussions and mentions of his contemporaries like Donna Tart, Don DeLillo and others. Very satisfying read and I took away a lot! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Jim Johnson | 1/25/2014

    " pretentious boring drivel "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by James G. | 1/23/2014

    " This collection of essays sparkles, and perhaps makes me glad it has taken me this long to "discover" Lethem. "Izations," about the treatment of our shared hero narratives like Spider Man and Bat Man across platforms and short, recent generations, is sweet and insightful. The long pieces on James Brown and Dylan are great. Lethem has read so many damn books himself it makes me kinda mad, resentful even - like they're all his. Not sure whether I ever get to his fiction. Loved this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Carljoe Javier | 1/20/2014

    " In volume and breadth this is an amazing essay collection. It is extremely dense and packed with ideas, and I am sure that not all people will like it, because it is so diverse and often goes out of its way to directly challenge reader expectations. Yet I found it an amazing and exciting read, one that regularly has you both nodding your head in agreement and jolting to the side because of a new or provocative idea. Great book. "

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