Jonathan Lethem quotes

  • I learned to write fiction the way I learned to read fiction - by skipping the parts that bored me.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Bored #Fiction

  • Someday I would change my name to Shut Up and save everybody a lot of time.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Names #Shut Up #Someday

  • What age is a black boy when he learns he's scary?
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Boys #Scary #Black

  • I want what we all want," said Carl. "To move certain parts of the interior of myself into the exterior world, to see if they can be embraced.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Moving #World #Want

  • Insomnia is a variant of Tourette's--the waking brain races, sampling the world after the world has turned away, touching it everywhere, refusing to settle, to join the collective nod. The insomniac brain is a sort of conspiracy theorist as well, believing too much in its own paranoiac importance--as though if it were to blink, then doze, the world might be overrun by some encroaching calamity, which its obsessive musings are somehow fending off.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Believe #Insomnia #Race

  • Fantastic writing in English is kind of disreputable, but fantastic writing in translation is the summit.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Kind #Fantastic

  • I work on a laptop specifically so I can work in cafes and pretend I'm part of the human world.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Cafes #World #Laptops

  • You could grow up in the city where history was made and still miss it all.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Growing Up #Cities #Missing

  • My inner chemistry had been hijacked by a mad scientist, who poured the fizzy, volatile contents of my heart from a test tube marked SOBER REALITY into another labeled SUNNY DELUSION, and back again, faster and faster, until the floor of my life was slick with spillage.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Heart #Reality #Mad

  • My heart, to put it more simply, got nostalgic for the present. Always a bad sign.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Heart #My Heart #Nostalgic

  • My heart and the elevator, a plummet inside a plummet.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Heart #My Heart #Elevators

  • But the day I can't shrug off a twinge of self-pity, is the day I'm washed up for keeps.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Self #Self Pity #Pity

  • Some people have things written all over their faces; the big guy had a couple of words misspelled in crayon on his.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Couple #People #Guy

  • It was often this way, life consisted of a series of false beginnings, bluff declarations of arrival to destinations not even glimpsed.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Way #Destination #Bluffs

  • To the resentment that hides inside love, to the loneliness that hides among companions.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Loneliness #Resentment #Companion

  • You can't be deep without a surface
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Surface

  • Those promises we make to ourselves when we are younger, about how we mean to conduct our adult lives, can it be true we break every last one of them? All except for one, I suppose: the promise to judge ourselves by those standards, the promise to remember the child who would be so appalled by compromise, the child who would find jadedness wicked.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Children #Mean #Judging

  • what exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Anxiety #Modernism #Postmodernism

  • There were days when no kid came out of his house without looking around. The week after Halloween had a quality both hungover and ominous, the light pitched, the sky smashed against the rooftops.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Halloween #Kids #Light

  • Anyone could see it all coming and no one could possibly stop it and that was the beautiful thing. Friday night was open wide and writ in stone
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Beautiful #Friday #Night

  • I just noticed recently that in one book after another I seem to find an excuse to find some character who, to put it idiotically simply, is allowed to talk crazy.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Crazy #Book #Character

  • I got into underground comics fairly early on and kind of wandered away from the superhero stuff, but I was an art student and I was drawing a lot as a kid.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Art #Kids #Drawing

  • Comics? Honestly, that's more a matter of nostalgia for me. I think most of that energy has gone to my love of literature and my love of film.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Thinking #Energy #Gone

  • I plan less and less. It's a great benefit of writing lots, that you get good at holding long narratives in your head like a virtual space.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Space #Long

  • I had always wanted to be a writer who confused genre boundaries and who was read in multiple contexts.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Confused #Boundaries #Genre

  • Teenage life - possibly adult life too is all about what you want and can’t have. And then about what you receive and misuse.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Teenage #Adults #Want

  • I don't paint anymore. I haven't since I abandoned it at 19, in order to begin writing seriously.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Order #Paint

  • Discomfort is very much part of my master plan.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Masters #Plans #Discomfort

  • As a child growing up in pre-gentrification Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, I went everywhere by bicycle. My bike was in many ways the key to my neighborhood, which, at the time, was Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. This was in the 60s and 70s, before all the white people and restaurants. I really can't underscore boldly enough the fact that I grew up in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, before it was gentrified. You could get mugged!
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Children #Growing Up #Keys

  • I grew up with an artist father, and my parents' friends were also mainly artists or writers, so he connects what I do with his example.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Father #Artist #Parent

  • I've never related to the work geek at all-it sounds much more horrible than nerd. Like a freak biting a chicken's head off in a sideshow.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Nerd #Sound #Biting

  • I keep one simple rule that I only move in one direction - I write the book straight through from beginning to end. By following time's arrow, I keep myself sane.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Moving #Book #Writing

  • I never take any notes or draw charts or make elaborate diagrams, but I hold an image of the shape of a book in my head and work from that mental hologram.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Book #Shapes #Notes

  • There's never any percentage in being ahead of your time.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Percentages

  • You discovered yourself and what really mattered only after you passed through the lens of the fairy tale, imposed on every human female and male alike, that someone existed out in the forest of the world for you to love and marry.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Males #Female #Lenses

  • For those whose ganglia were formed pre-TV, the mimetic deployment of pop-culture icons seems at best an annoying tic and at worst a dangerous vapidity that compromises fiction's seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always, where it ought to reside.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Icons #Dating #Deployment

  • I met someone who lives in an elevator.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Elevators #Mets

  • Develop your pawns or Hulk will smash.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Pawns

  • Waves, sky, trees, Essrog - I was off the page now, away from the grammar of skyscrapers and pavement.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Sky #Tree #Pages

  • However appalling to consider, however tedious to enact, every novel requires furniture, whether it is to be named or unnamed, for the characters will be unable to remain in standing position for the duration of the story.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Character #Stories #Duration

  • I guess they needed a maze in Japan, where everything's neat and tidy. In America everybody's already wandering around lost.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Japan #America #Mazes

  • Life is fundamentally up for grabs
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Life Is

  • I'd have been a filmmaker or a cartoonist or something else which extended from the visual arts into the making of narratives if I hadn't been able to shift into fiction.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Art #Fiction #Narrative

  • I'd excluded New York from my writing, and then I came back and I fell in love with it all over again. The energy comes from an absence, that yearning for New York when you are not there.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #New York #Writing #Energy

  • In the sea of words, the in print is foam, surf bubbles riding the top. And it's a dark sea, and deep, where divers need lights on their helmets and would perish at the lower depths.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Dark #Light #Sea

  • It was only as I wrote about it that I began to find paths of access to feelings that were intolerable to me then.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Feelings #Path

  • Nerds are just deep, and neurotic, fans. Needy fans. We're all nerds, on one subject or another.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Nerd #Fans #Needy

  • I try not to become too regular an addict of any one subculture.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Addiction #Trying #Subculture

  • The more film I watch, the more John Ford looks like a giant. His politics aren't so good, and you have to learn to accept John Wayne as an actor, but he's a poet in black and white.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Black And White #Actors #Giants

  • The book is openly a kind of spiritual autobiography, but the trick is that on any other level it's a kind of insane collage of fragments of memory.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Spiritual #Memories #Book

  • The past is still visible. The buildings haven't changed, the layout of the streets hasn't changed. So memory is very available to me as I walk around.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Memories #Past #Building

  • What's lucky about my career in general is that I stumbled into what every writer most wants. Not repeating myself and doing strange things has become my trademark.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Careers #Lucky #Want

  • I’ve always been uninterested in boundaries or quarantines between tastes and types, between mediums and genres.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Taste #Quarantine #Boundaries

  • Writing is a private discipline, in a field of companions.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Discipline #Fields

  • You don’t have the slightest idea of what it means to write a scene and a character in the English language, with images and words chock full of received meaning.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Mean #Writing #Character

  • I can't bear the silent ringing in my skull.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Skulls #Bears #Silent

  • How often had that hydrant even been opened? Did you jet water through a car window, what, twice at best? Summer burned just a few afternoons long, in the end. As for flying, Dose never even glanced at the sky. Flying was a summer within a summer, a whim. So why think of it at all?
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Summer #Thinking #Sky

  • When the civil rights battle was won, all the Jews and hippies and artists were middle class white people and all the blacks were still poor. Materially, not much changed.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Hippie #Artist #Class

  • Listen to me. I’m shy. I’m not stupid. I can’t meet people’s eyes. I don’t know if you understand what that’s like. There’s a whole world going on around me, I’m aware of that. It’s not because I don’t want to look at you, Lucinda. It’s that I don’t want to be seen.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Stupid #Eye #People

  • Apologies aren't something you want to get in the habit of practicing in the mirror
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Apology #Mirrors #Want

  • ...Don't rupture another's illusion unless you're positive the alternative you offer is more worthwhile than that from which you're wrenching them. Interrogate your solipsism: Does it offer any better a home than the delusions you're reaching to shatter?
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Home #Doe #Alternatives

  • As I get older I find that the friendships that are the most certain, ultimately, are the ones where you and the other person have made substantial amounts of money for one another.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Made #Certain #Persons

  • I've had the odd good luck of starting slowly and building gradually, something few writers are allowed anymore. As a result I've seen each of my books called the breakthrough. And each was, in its way.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Book #Good Luck #Way

  • I'm learning to hate the sound of my own voice.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Hate #Voice #Sound

  • It's now expected of me that I will defy expectation, so I really generally seem to be free to write what I want.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Writing #Expectations #Want

  • Consensual reality is both fragile and elastic, and it heals like the skin of a bubble.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Reality #Skins #Heal

  • It wasn't for children, seventh grade. You could read the stress of even entering the building in the postures of the teachers, the security guards. Nobody could relax in such a racial and hormonal disaster area.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Teacher #Children #Stress

  • Nature, or at least birds and women, abhorred the invisible man.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Men #Bird #Invisible

  • Apparently Brooklyn needn't always push itself to be something else, something conscious and anxious, something pointed toward Manhattan.... Brooklyn might sometimes also be pleased, as here on Flatbush, to be its grubby, enduring self.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Self #Might #Manhattan

  • The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism,
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Soul #Substance #Utterance

  • All paths lead nowhere, choose one with heart,
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Heart #Path

  • The key to mostly anything is pretending your first time *isn't*.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Keys #Firsts #Pretending

  • The arts and a belief in the values of the civil rights movement, in the overwhelming virtue of diversity, these were our religion. My parents worshipped those ideals.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Art #Rights #Diversity

  • Tourette's is just one big lifetime of tag, really. The world (or my brain---same thing) appoints me it, again and again. So I tag back. Can it do otherwise? If you've ever been it you know the answer.
    -- Jonathan Lethem

    #Brain #Answers #World