Love in Lethem’s Future

In the new novel by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem beckons us away from the snowy confines ofNew England academe and the sweltering streets of the Manhattan borough to a Los Angeles as surreal as a late night laundry.In “You Don’t Love Me Yet,” one catches aglimpse of a sleepy L.A. through the eyes of a coffee house waitress, Lucinda, who finds herself a piece of living artwork in her ex’s instillation art show, The Complaint Department, answering telephone calls from complainers.Plagued with boredom and a sense of ethereal inertia, she spends her days waiting for one complainer in particular, Carl, to call.Meanwhile, her band is in a rut. Partly due to lack of artistic direction and partly due to her supposed break-up with theband’s lead singer, Matthew (who works at a zoo), Lucinda decides to spark up their material, turning her notes from Carl’s over to the band’s quiet genius to formulate into songs. Lucinda beginsseeing Carl in secrecy, engaging in a relatively zesty sexual enterprise (Lethem might as well win the best or worst sex in fiction award for this).When her band is booked for a gig at her ex’s “living art show,” a party during which they are supposed to play silently, she comes face to face with Carl, who is surprised to hear what he has confided in her being sung.He asks, in light of this, to become a member of the band and it looks as though a record contract is going to come through for them.What ensues is quirky – Matthew steals an ailing kangaroo from the zoo to nurse it back to health. The band tries to deal withthe new dynamics forced upon it by their newfound attention and their new member.By far the novel’s most interesting themes deal with those of place in its regards to consciousness. The images Lethem paints of summertime in L.A. are dreamscapes, without past or future – literally hazy prose, impervious to time. The rest is absolutelywild and creative. It is a quiet, intimate, beauty of a book.