Jonathan Lethem is perhaps our most active literary voice mining the genre margins of our culture. In this unique collection he creates an anthology that no one else could. He draws on the work of such unforgettables as Julio Cortazar, who presents a man caught between the ancient and modern worlds unable to say which is real; Philip K. Dick, who tells the story of a man trapped on a spaceship of the somnolent, unable to sleep and slowly losing his mind; Shirley Jackson, who takes us on a nightmarish trip across town with a young secretary; and Oliver Sacks, who presents us with an aging hippie who possesses no memory of anything that has taken place since the early seventies. What Lethem has done is nothing less than define a new genre of literature-the amnesia story-and in the process he invites us to sit down, pick up the book, and begin to forget. Also including: John Franklin Bardin, Donald Barthelme, Thomas M. Disch, Karn Joy Fowler, David Grand, Anna Kavan, Haruki Murakami, Flann O'Brien, Edmund White, and many others.
Real diagnosable amnesia is mostly just a rumor in the world, a rare and usually temporary condition. But in literature it has formed a recurring theme — even a genre of its own — reflecting a modern mood, and a mood that clearly has special appeal to Americans. From the noir troupe of a lone man wandering the streets in an amnesiac stupor wondering if he's done anything criminal, to a more existential meditation on absence, to stories whose conclusions reveal the narrator was dead the whole time, to Pirandello's syndrome, where those elusive memories don't exist because the author didn't bother to write them, to a more collective political amnesia, Lethem has limned our literature for stories that "more than just present a character who'd suffered memory loss, entered into an amnesiac state at some level of the narrative itself — and invited the reader to do the same".
Jonathan Lethem lives in Brooklyn, New York. Motherless Brooklyn is coming from Vintage in Fall 2000.