Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Lethem

Table of Malcontents: “I met up with Jonathan Lethem last week to talk about the joys of living outside copyright laws, and the award-winning nerd novelist revealed that he’d love to be in a slash fiction story. Whom would he want to be paired with? ‘I want to be surprised! I want to see ones I wouldn’t think of!” he enthused, eyes wide with anticipation — or possibly fear. Lethem believes he’s been ‘slashed’ only once, paired with fellow geek novelist Michael Chabon in a ‘sublimated homoerotic comic by Patricia Storms that was just an inch away from being Kirk and Spock.'”

By a curious coincidence, I recently received an email from Virginia Thorup, a diffident fan fiction writer from Des Moines who kindly offered to share a piece with the readers here at Return of the Reluctant:

Michael stepped into the room, his long locks dangling against his bare chest. Ayelet was far, far away and he had only one thing on his mind: the whiny neurotic in the guest room. Jonathan was at the computer, wondering what kind of novel he could possibly write.

“Dammit, they really loved Fortress!” exclaimed Jonathan. “And they hated You Don’t Love Me Yet!”

“There there, Jonathan,” said Michael, his sweat dripping between his toned pecs because he was SO nervous! Would Jonathan say YES? “I think I know a way to cure your angst, to settle you down.”

“Leave me alone, Yiddish boy.”

“I wish I could have been there when they circumcised you.”

Jonathan thought of the kind rabbis who sliced him so many years ago, instilling him with a reason for being, beginning his long ascent to delayed manhood. And now where was he? Spiritually cut off from God, spiritually cut off from pleasure, spiritually cut off from his natural talents. He grew hard thinking about the blade, wondered what Michael would have done had he been there decades ago and had Michael been a grown man and a qualified man of the blade. Michael would have used the knife gently. Michael would have cupped his balls and excited him, reassuring him, reigniting him.

Michael observed that Jonathan’s buttocks bounced as he sat in the chair. Jonathan couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t relax and write. He seemed to grow giddy thinking about comic books.

“I’m a MacArthur fellow now!” exclaimed Jonathan. “I’m too old for this shit. I have to be mainstream and acceptable.”

“You’re never too old for love,” said Michael.

Michael caressed Jonathan’s cheek, feeling Jonathan’s tears streak onto the top of his fingers. He had known tears himself because he had known Ayelet. And he knew that, with Jonathan, he could reclaim what little was left of their respective manhoods.

“Get out of the chair and bend over!” commanded Michael.


“Come on! You need this!”

Jonathan was afraid, but Michael told him it was okay. He could bring a knife if he wanted to. And when Michael’s hard six-inch cock penetrated Jonathan’s ass, he sighed and moaned. And he knew then and there that everything would be okay. Michael pumped softly because he knew Jonathan was sensitive. And Michael was sensitive too. But someone had to take charge. Jonathan was more sensitive because the critics had reviewed his books. And he knew that Jonathan’s ass, with its concave buttocks flattened from too many hours in the chair, was the only relief.

“Auggggggggggggghhhhh!” said Jonathan, the pleasure coruscating through his body. “Harder, Michael! Harder!”

Michael adjusted his thrust, roughing Jonathan up a bit and tousling his hair. Jonathan hadn’t gone bald like the others. He liked that. He liked a virile man over forty. He wanted to see Jonathan sweat. He wanted to see Jonathan go the distance. Michael cupped Jonathan’s balls, feeling his cock harden in his hands and jerked him off.

He thrust harder and harder. He began to see God. Then he came and pulled out, his load dripping down Jonathan’s crack. He felt Jonathan jism in his fingers. Jonathan’s tears had been replaced by pure pleasure. He wiped his fingers upon his face, the semen, sweat and tears forming a veritable Lethem milkshake. It was a pity he was lactose intolerant.

“Now write your next novel,” barked Michael.

“Can you come by after Chapter Five?” begged Jonathan, looking up at Michael while on all fours. “I may need your help, master!”

“Okay. But you’re my bitch. Never forget.”

Queen Anne, Ordinary Life and Assorted Schlepping

Lisa Allardice dares to ask a question that some people have answered, but have refrained from voicing, fearful of being labeled some rabble-rouser to be dealt a harsh blow, never again to be invited to those swank cocktail parties: Is Anne Tyler washed up? Since I value my respiratory tract (and I’ve been known to cave when wine and cheese are placed beneath my nose, but only in weak moments), I’ll only say that I’ve liked Tyler’s books in the past, but reading Ladder of Years on a whim was a very bad idea. I suspect my struggle had to do with what Tyler considered to be the ultimate revolutionary choice for a woman: running away from your husband. And this in 1996 with a rising divorce rate. I think we can all agree that this precludes Tyler from the “contemporary literature” canon.

Also in The Guardian is an amusing and forthright essay from Danny Leigh, first-time novelist of The Greatest Gift. Not only does Leigh try to wrestle with the conundrum of whether his protagonist mirrors his life, but he also confesses that, as a human being, he figures his life experience is pretty banal. But that apparently didn’t stop him from discovering things about himself that he could throw an imaginative spin on.

This article on fan fiction doesn’t nail down any conclusions, but does offer a not-bad overview of K/S and other exemplars of fan fervor. (via Graham)

Heru Ptah apparently made a killing selling his book on the subway. To the tune of $100,000 and an MTV Books deal with an advance in the mid-five figures.

Great headline with disappointing followthrough: Diet books with prose to savor? Fat chance. If only. And this fillip in the Philly. I dare a major newspaper to assess the poetic value of The Atkins Diet.