Jonathan Lethem in Feb 28 New Yorker

I flipped immediately to Jonathan Lethem’s essay, “The Beards,” upon receiving this week’s New Yorker in the mail. A series of riffs on art and music and books and movies and loss, I found it intoxicatingly good. I constantly admire Lethem for his unguarded fanatacism about the works of art that he loves, his devotion to those that ultimately dissapoint, can only disappoint.

A couple samples from the essay, from which the title of Lethem’s new collection, The Disappointment Artist is drawn:

[Pink Floyd] was a group that had lost its genius and its spiritual center, and had had to carry on. And, paradoxically, its masterpiece (for that was what I believed “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to be) had been achieved without his help, but in his honor. Syd Barret wasn’t dead, but “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was memorial art. It suggested that I didn’t have to fall into ruin to exemplify the cost of losing someone as enormous as Judith Lethem. My surviving Judith’s death would in no way be to her dishonor. I’d only owe her a great song.
….
[Bob] Dylan and [Philip K.] Dick created bodies of work so contradictory and erratic that they never seemed to have promised me perfection, so they could never disappoint me. Here were artists who hung themselves emotionally out to dry, who risked rage and self-pity in their work, and were sometimes overwhelmed by those feelings and blew it.

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