The latest books to join Professor Jonathan Lethem‘s literary arsenal are not new novels, but a collection of 80 essays, most of which were previously published, and a handful of new items and an edited collection of Phillip K. Dick’s personal writings.
The collection of essays, titled The Ecstasy of Influence (Random House), is a career-spanning look at what invigorates Lethem as a writer.
“The book of essays ranges as widely as my own interests do, and have, for the 20 years I’ve been a published, working writer—and so, in fact, the subject of the book is in many ways the opportunities, and also the dilemma, of being assigned (or assigning oneself) the role of public intellectual in an often anti-intellectual culture,” says Lethem, who joined the Pomona College faculty last year as the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing. “I tried to contend honestly, and even self-critically, with the results of the various roles I’ve tried to inhabit or, as often, wriggle my way out of.”
The Ecstasy of Influence is named for a seminal 2007 Harper’s essay Lethem wrote on the importance of influence—or plagiarism or “borrowing”-—in the creative process; the essay itself was, in a sense, “borrowed” as Lethem built the lengthy essays from previously published passages from other writers.
Lethem’s second November book release is a volume of Philip K. Dick’s last writings, edited by Lethem and Pamela Jackson. This near 976-page tome is, Lethem says, “a culmination of a lifetime’s involvement in Dick’s posthumous career for me.” Lethem previously served as editor of a selection of Dick’s novels that were published in a three-volume set by the Library of America.
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