This is a book that turns the reader into Mortimer Snerd, the ventriloquist's puppet who supposedly first uttered the immortal phrase "Who'd have thunk it?" Who'd have thunk that Jonathan Lethem – one of the most emotionally engaging and intellectually nimble of contemporary novelists – might prefer Barbara Pym to Thomas Pynchon? Who'd have thunk the first book he had autographed was by Anthony Burgess, or that he adored Gk Chesterton, the essay on whom has the most appropriately ecstatic opening sentence: "How do you autopsy a somersault?" There are also more familiar aspects. You would have to be a rather obtuse reader not to realise Lethem's love of Dick, Dylan and Ditko.
This is not, thankfully, one of those ragbag anthologies of non-fiction that fiction writers throw together when their cuttings drawer becomes full. Rather, like Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind
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