Jonathan Lethem is among the most acclaimed contemporary American writers. In early novels like Gun, with Occasional Music (1994) and Amnesia Moon (1995) he spliced together genres Science Fiction, crime, the Western into unexpected new combinations. He won renewed praise for Motherless Brooklyn (1999), narrated by a detective with Tourettes Syndrome, and The Fortress of Solitude (2003), an epic coming-of-age narrative in which memories of the sights and sounds of 1970s Brooklyn are combined with the traits of the superhero comic. Lethem has established himself as one of the major novelists of his generation, while retaining a fans fascination with popular culture film, comic books, records which energizes his work. At the end of 2009 he published Chronic City, an extended portrait of Manhattan that uses surreal means to dramatize its strangeness after 9/11.
Occasional Music, to be held at Birkbeck on Saturday 10 July, is the first ever academic event of this scale to be devoted to Lethems work. Scholars from the United States will contribute papers alongside those from the UK. Jonathan Lethem will attend the whole day and will give a reading and participate in a final Q&A session. The symposium promises to be a uniquely rewarding event for those interested in contemporary fiction and the state of American writing.
Birkbecks new Contemporary Fiction Reading Group will also be holding an evening seminar on Lethems work two days before the symposium. For more details on this group see: dandelionnetwork.org/group/contemporaryfictiongroup