I just finished Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, a funny, quiet, improbable book about an art-rock band in Los Angeles that might be making it big.
I'm an enormous Lethem fan, and have been since Gun With Occasional Music, a hard-boiled detective story by way of Philip K Dick, and I particularly love how versatile he is, every book really different from the last. You Don't Love Me Yet is no exception.
The book follows the story of Lucinda, a barista and bass player who has just broken up with Matthew, her lead singer who works days as a veterinary assistant at the LA Zoo and burns with white-hot anger at the treatment of one of the kangaroos there. They remain friends, and remain in the band, and Lucinda finds herself quitting the coffee shop to work for a conceptual artist whose latest gimmick is the "Complaints Line," a phone number you can call and complain to.
It's there that she first encounters The Complainer, a brainy, deeply weird older man who seduces her through the complaints line -- and gives her the inspiration to get the band out of its rut and onto a stage.
You Don't Love Me Yet's characters -- a collection of earnest would-be rockers, rogue zoologists, cynical promoters, and sociopathic sloganeers -- are totally charming. Even the most repulsive among them is redeemed, shown to be somehow necessary, even if utterly reprehensible.
The storytelling in this book has all the daffy precision of an old Talking Heads song, an intense, nerdy diction like an autistic film student telling you about the secret meaning of an old black-and-white movie he's been studying by watching once a week for ten years (this actually happens in the book). Read the rest