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This collection is in no danger of such a brush-off.It's a testament to our culture's fascination with itself, yet moving and personal, an interesting reminiscence on learning to think critically.
Lethem grew up mainly in Brooklyn, son of a painter and a bohemian mother who died of a brain tumor when the writer was in his early teens.
"Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn" is the most evocative of Lethem's childhood.
When an abandoned platform in his station is chosen as the set for the dystopian New York City movie The Warriors, Lethem's interests collide.
Three essays in this collection are about movies: "Defending the Searchers," "13, 1977, 21," and "Two or Three Things I Dunno About Cassavetes," and films are at least mentioned in all of the remaining essays.
In this essay, he describes the subway of his high school years.
Hoyt-Schermerhorn was his station in a rough neighborhood and the essay reflects his fear in being easy prey as a young boy on his own, as well as his fascination with the vibrant city all around him.The essay isn't really about Star Wars; it's about obsession and how you can hide behind it.His mother's illness, his father's remoteness, the awkwardness of his preteen years --- the author could make these things disappear, temporarily, at the movies."13, 1977, 21" is about seeing Star Wars 21 times at the age of thirteen.This isn't as odd as it might sound; a lot of boys saw Star Wars many, many times when it first came out.If there were good art, then people who liked it would have better taste than people who didn't.So if you discard taste, you also have to discard the idea of art being good, and artists being good at making it.It was pulling on that thread that unravelled my childhood faith in relativism.When you're trying to make things, taste becomes a practical matter. Would it make the painting better if I changed that part?"The Disappointment Artist" is about writing and generosity.Based on correspondence from Lethem's aunt, Wilma Yeo, a children's book author, the essay concerns her experiences with Edgar Dahlberg, her writing instructor.