Kafka Americana

Overview

"Inspired by affection.... Extremely witty and intelligent."—Publishers Weekly
Previously published only in a signed, limited edition, Kafka Americana has achieved cult status. Norton now brings this reimagination of our labyrinthine world to a wider audience. In an act of literary appropriation, Lethem and Scholz seize a helpless Kafka by the lapels and thrust him into the cultural wreckage of twentieth-century America. In the collaboratively written "Receding Horizon," Hollywood welcomes Kafka as scriptwriter ...

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Overview

"Inspired by affection.... Extremely witty and intelligent."—Publishers Weekly
Previously published only in a signed, limited edition, Kafka Americana has achieved cult status. Norton now brings this reimagination of our labyrinthine world to a wider audience. In an act of literary appropriation, Lethem and Scholz seize a helpless Kafka by the lapels and thrust him into the cultural wreckage of twentieth-century America. In the collaboratively written "Receding Horizon," Hollywood welcomes Kafka as scriptwriter for Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, with appropriately morbid results. Scholz's "The Amount to Carry" transports "the legal secretary of the Workman's Accident Insurance Institute" to a conference with fellow insurance executives Wallace Stevens and Charles Ives, to muse on what can and can't be insured. And Lethem's "K for Fake" brings together Orson Welles, Jerry Lewis, and Rod Serling in a kangaroo trial in which Kafka faces fraudulent charges. Taking modernism's presiding genius for a joyride, the authors portray an absurd, ominous world that Kafka might have invented but could never have survived.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393322538
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Pages: 108
  • Sales rank: 1,419,032
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan  Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Brooklyn and Maine.

Carter Scholz is the co-author of Palimpsests. His novel Radiance was published in 2002. He lives in California.

Biography

The son of artists and activists, Jonathan Lethem has always been surrounded by art and archetypes. His father, avant-garde painter Richard Brown Lethem, ensured that the household was always bustling with fellow artists, live nude models, and a creative spirit. Despite the nurturing, artistic setting, Lethem's teen years were demanding -- his mother died of cancer when he was 14, and the streets of his Brooklyn neighborhood forced him to toughen up at a young age.

Lethem's Brooklyn is rich with history and stories. Much of the world knows Brooklyn through the movies and television -- as an urban maze just outside the glitter of Manhattan. But Lethem's novels deliver a more emotional and brutal reality of the streets he called home (and still does). The Brooklyn culture of his childhood became the sidewalk on which he built his critically acclaimed Motherless Brooklyn, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Lethem attended the High School for Music and Art in NYC, where he studied painting but began to hone his love of literature. An insatiable reader, he read the classic and the contemporary, including Kerouac, Mailer, Vonnegut, Chandler, Dostoevsky, Orwell, and Kafka. While still in high school, he finished a 125-page novel called Heroes. It was never published but is rumored to be the earliest form of what became The Fortress of Solitude.

After high school, Lethem attended Bennington College in Vermont but dropped out after the first semester to work on his writing. He returned to Bennington briefly, but eventually made the move to California, hitchhiking his way across the country to arrive in Berkeley in 1984. This experience, and the years he spent in San Francisco, provided the inspiration for his first three novels, Amnesia Moon(1995), As She Climbed Across the Table (1997), and Girl in Landscape (1998).

In late 1996, Lethem moved back to Brooklyn and began writing the book that would put him on the lips of every publisher and reader in the country. When Motherless Brooklyn was released in 1999, readers fell in love with its fascinating lead characters, relentless plot, and detailed setting. It was an instant success and won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Lethem's long-awaited next novel, The Fortress of Solitude, hit the shelves four years later, in 2003. He conducted a lot of research for the book, gaining yet another perspective on his beloved hometown. The novel is again set in Brooklyn, on Dean Street, where Lethem grew up. Over three decades, the two lead characters -- Dylan and Mingus -- experience the world through the prisms of race relations, music, and pop culture in a disturbing and compelling story of loyalty and loss, vulnerability and superhero powers.

Outside of novels, Lethem has published short fiction and lent his editing talents to a number of projects. Odd and shocking, This Shape We're In (an extended short story) is about an unforgettable trip to the hospital. The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye is a collection of seven short stories about everything from clones to professional basketball. Lethem and coauthor Carter Scholz have fun with the master of the bizarre in Kafka Americana: Fiction, a book of short stories with Kafka as the main character navigating absurd situations. Lethem edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia, short stories about the art of forgetting by such authors as Philip K. Dick, Martin Amis, and Shirley Jackson. He was guest editor of The Year's Best Music Writing 2002, essays by writers on music.

Good To Know

Lethem's original artistic impulse was to be a painter. While he remains a talented graphic artist, he first acknowledged his deep desire to write while at Bennington, where fellow classmates included Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt.

Before he was a published writer, Lethem's only other jobs were in bookstores. His first bookstore job was at age 13, and he supported himself this way up to 1994 when his first novel was published. In San Francisco, he worked at the well-known Moe's Books, home of rare and antique tomes.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jonathan Allan Lethem (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      Left Bennington College after two years

Table of Contents

Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor 3
The Notebooks of Bob K. 16
Receding Horizon 23
The Amount to Carry 51
K for Fake 79
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