On Sunday, November 11th, the audience in the movie theater at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston was given the opportunity to learn more about author Jonathan Lethem through the film LETHEM by Fred Barney Taylor.
“America is really the West. Your mind migrates to the realm of possibility. When you’re walking across Wyoming you’re walking across the planet.” -Jonathan Lethem
Although not a household name, Lethem has published numerous books which are considered genre-busting and is a critic’s darling. His work is part mystery, noir, science fiction, and experimental fiction. Lethem has won the MacArthur Grant and his book The Fortress of Solitude was an Editor’s Choice book of the year in The New York Times. He lists his influences as Philip K. Dick, John Cassavetes, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bob Dylan.
Although a New York native, Lethem has lived out of New York for years, relocated to California. He refers to Los Angeles, California as the holographic city saying, “It is the city of cults, impostors, and has a child-like culture full of unrealistic dreams and hope.”
“I tend to dream my way back to places when I’m away from them. I’ve spent as much time running away from New York City as I have embracing it.”
In the film, director Taylor interviews Lethem’s brother, wife, and father as well as several former employers and friends to show the audience a broad background of the author’s life and personality. Lethem’s first book They Live was turned into a cult classic film by the same name by John Carpenter.
“New York City is the future. It’s the first city founded as a commercial venture.” – Jonathan Lethem
After the screening, the audience was treated to a conversation with the author and the filmmaker. Barney shared that he shot over fifty hours of film and it became a ninety-minute film. The film is not currently available for streaming.
Next year Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn will be turned into a feature film directed by Ed Norton and starring Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Leslie Mann and more.