three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-You Don’t Love Me YetIn his latest novel, set in L.A. instead of his native Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem explores authorship and the ownership of ideas when creative people are inspired by the creativity of others. Lucinda makes her living answering telephones for the Complaint Line, a performance-art piece that logs anonymous complaints about anything at all. One regular caller captivates Lucinda with his droll observations. She records them and presents them to her struggling indie band’s songwriter, who subsequently composes the best lyrics of his career. Just when Lucinda and her friends seem destined for fame, the complainer shows up claiming that the songs belong to him—and demanding a piece of the action.
Doubleday. 240 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 038551218X

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Lethem embarks on a hilarious romp in which ideas of sex, love, art and intellectual property are turned on end. Even where minor narrative elements falter, Lethem’s characters and ideas are made whole with his astonishing gift of language." Sean Cronin

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Although it’s decidedly lighter in tone than Lethem’s more recent novels, with a spry, frolicking rhythm—breezy, even—it’s still smart and funny, providing a biting satirical take on the intersection of art and commerce, integrity and façade. … Though Lethem is known for conjuring the nuances of neighborhoods (OK, Brooklyn), this novel lacks all sense of place." Deborah Vankin

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In a corpus now up to 15 novels, story and nonfiction collections, You Don’t Love Me Yet will doubtless be seen as a minor work. But ‘minor,’ when referring to a writer this adventurous and idiosyncratic, need not equate to ‘negligible.’" Chauncey Mabe

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Lethem being Lethem, the book still moves along in bright, sparkly fashion for the most part. It’s just a strange experience, watching someone of his powers and years—an accomplished 43-year-old novelist—applying his skills to what seems like first-novel material." David Kamp

Rocky Mountain News 2 of 5 Stars
"Lethem’s gift for dialogue is evident, despite the prose in which it’s embedded. … For a book that its publicist describes as ‘a comic novel,’ You Don’t Love Me Yet isn’t terribly funny, probably because Lethem has chosen to use distant, adverb-laden language to write about a subject—rock music—that calls for a more direct, elemental approach." Jenny Shank

USA Today 1 of 5 Stars
"Lethem strangely misfires with the material of pop culture, the nature of artistic inspiration, even the West Coast setting, which he should command. … Lethem, who evoked Brooklyn culture so thrillingly in his last two novels, loses all sense of setting here." David Daley

Critical Summary

Departing from the profound meditations and vibrant settings of his previous books, Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude, 3 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2003) takes a gamble on a rock novel, to varying reactions. A few critics welcomed the playful look at relationships, music, and plagiarism as a confirmation of Lethem’s versatility. Most, however, were unhappy with Lethem’s literary devolution. Chief among the complaints were the lack of depth, the one-dimensional characters, and the nondescript atmosphere of L.A. Unfortunately, Lethem has led readers to expect more than lighthearted romantic comedy from his work. Judged against his previous works, You Don’t Love Me Yet may disappoint Lethem’s fans. However, on its own, it is an airy, clever, and engaging novel.

Also by the Author

Motherless Brooklyn (1999): Award Star National Book Critics Circle Award. Lionel Essrog, a New York City private detective with Tourette’s syndrome, finds his boss and mentor, Frank Minna, stabbed and dying in a dumpster. When Minna, who took the orphaned Lionel under his wing when he was just a teen, refuses to divulge the name of his attacker, Lionel sets off to solve the murder.