Little book review: Jonathan Lethem's 'The Ecstasy of Influence'

So. All the way back in January 2013, I made a resolution to finish Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of InfluenceI actually started this big, but not-what-you'd-call-epic, book part way through 2012. Two and a half years later, would you Adam and Eve it, I've actually finished it.

One mind's melting pot

For a little background, Lethem's book is a collection of short essays and articles from across his writing career. In fact, if you were to read the sleeve note, you would find it includes 'essays, memoir, liner notes, fiction and commentary - that doubles as a novelist's manifesto, self-portrait, and confession.'

As you can imagine, this results in all sorts of tangents and spin-offs as you traverse your way through writings on art, film, music, Brooklyn and plagiarisms. That is my excuse for taking so long to complete this tour of one man's melting-pot of a mind.

While I didn't get on with every piece, many, many more have stuck with me. His interview piece with James Brown and his band, for example, is a genuine insight to a weird, one-man centred world constantly shifting with the moods and leading ear of the star synonymous with soul.

The earlier pieces, which cover Lethem's gradual immersion into the world of books and authors are a treasure trove of literary tangents and his piece on 9/11 painted such a vivid physical and emotional scene that I can still recall it clearly after what is probably year since I read it.

If you are interested in the role of the author in culture and society, or in tidbits and insights into all sorts of cultural corners, then this is a book worth picking up and gradually stepping through. Be warned though: it often acts as a pebble in a pond, causing you to ripple out to other authors, ideas and endeavours, so it might take you a while to visit every page.