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As She Climbed across the Table (Vintage Contemporaries) [Paperback]

Jonathan Lethem
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 1998 Vintage Contemporaries

         Anna Karenina left her husband for a dashing officer. Lady Chatterley left hers for the gamekeeper. Now Alice Coombs has her boyfriend for nothing … nothing at all.  Just how that should have come to pass and what Philip Engstrand, Alice’s spurned boyfriend, can do about it is the premise for this vertiginous speculative romance by the acclaimed author of Gun, with Occasional Music.
         Alice Coombs is a particle physicist, and she and her colleagues have created a void, a hole in the universe, that they have taken to calling Lack. But Lack is a nullity with taste—tastes; it absorbs a pomegranate, light bulbs, an argyle sock; it disdains a bow tie, an ice ax, and a scrambled duck egg. To Alice, this selectivity translates as an irresistible personality. To Philip, it makes Lack an unbeatable rival, for how can he win Alice back from something that has no flaws—because it has no qualities? Ingenious, hilarious, and genuinely mind-expanding, As She Climbed Across the Table is the best boy-meets-girl-meets-void story ever written. 

Product details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Contemporaries Ed edition (1 Mar 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700125
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,372,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Lethem was born in New York and attended Bennington College.

He is the author of seven novels including Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which was named Novel of the Year by Esquire and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Salon Book Award, as well as the Macallan Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger.

He has also written two short story collections, a novella and a collection of essays, edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia, guest-edited The Year's Best Music Writing 2002, and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine.

His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's and many other periodicals.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York

Product Description

Amazon Review

When is the absurd not absurd? When the story is chronicled by Jonathan Lethem. In As She Climbed Across the Table, Lethem again manages to take the strangest of set-ups and make them seem commonplace--so much so that, despite the high concepts (Motherless Brooklyn was about a Tourettes-suffering gangster/private eye and Girl in Landscape was a sci-fi coming-of-age story), his books are masterpieces of human characterisation..

The (ostensible) premise of As She Climbed Across the Table concerns the discovery of a hole in the universe by Professor Alice Coombs, and the effect of the discovery on the campus on which she works. A physicist, Coombs and her department create a hole in the universe--a hole that is defined by its complete lack of tangible qualities. As she and her department explore their discovery, they anthropomorphitise it: Alice comes to ascribe a personality to "Lack"; it is this relationship and the effect it has on Coombs' partner, Philip Engstrand (a sociologist who studies the community of academics around him), that the book revolves around. Told from Engstrand's point of view, it is a fantastic tale told without wonder--think Don DeLillo, especially White Noise, another tale of the everyday absurd set on a college campus--and it's all the richer for it. --Randy Silver --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


'This is a very clever book, with virtuoso ideas and a confident delivery. We shall, I hope, hear much more from this delightfully original writer.' The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Had a Profound Impact on My Life 2 Feb 1999
By A Customer
I remember standing in the aisle of a Mr. Paperback bookstore, science fiction section, still in my "Dragonlance" phase in high school. On the shelf, I noticed a book with a picture of a detective with a mirror laid out in front of him, fat lines of drugs, and a kangaroo in the corner. It was called "Gun, With Occasional Music". I bought it immediately, and fell in love with Jonathan Lethem. A few years later, never having spotted any of his other books in the meantime, I found a copy of "As She Climbed Across the Table" in the Bennington College Bookstore (Lethem, incidentally, is a Bennington alum). I bought it immediately, not even glancing at the back for a synopsis. I read it all that night. I had lost a girlfriend recently when I bought this book. I felt like underlining every word of love and loss that was uttered by the lead character. The emotion was deep, the words were beautiful, and it was such a sweet love story told in such an unusual way (i.e., not sappy or stupid), that it was a chill salve for my love-wounds. Lethem is a genius. "As She Cimbed Across the Table" is a must-read for any romantic, as well as anyone looking for a keen satire on the academic life. Bravo and hear hear! I've already told everyone I know about it, and bought a copy for a special girl.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I read Jonathan Lethem's 'Motherless Brooklyn' last year and I was really excited to see 'As she Climbed Across the Table'. Lethem is brilliant at playing with ideas and the words used to express them, but is also an excellent storyteller so that the ideas come to life and inhabit his writing as strongly as his characters do. This novel uses a bizarre physics experiment and people's reaction to 'Lack', the anthropomorphised result, as a way into talking about unrequited love, blindness in all sorts of senses, and our perceptions of the world around us. Lethem writes with a lightness that makes the read a pleasure, while drawing out concepts that kept hitting me as I read, so that by the end I felt almost exhausted, physically and emotionally. This is a book that made me look at the world in a new way as I read, and that makes it a fantastic novel. I recommend this and 'Motherless Brooklyn' to anyone who loves writers who play with language to reveal more about the world while telling a story that keeps the reader engaged.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just Brilliant 25 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have never been so hypnotised by a book before. Heart-breaking and heart-warming in equal doses. Worth every single of its five stars.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was okay... 20 Feb 1999
By A Customer
My girlfriend loved this... I thought it was okay--a fast read, a bit odd, defintely not like other stuff I read. We (my girlfriend and I) exchanged the books we had just read. She gave me this, and I gave her Watership Down. I think she got the better end of the deal... she thought I got the better end. *smile*
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning 10 Jun 1999
By A Customer
I love the prose in this book, the sheer beauty of language he brings across. The ideas are very compelling, and the characters are memorable. I found it in the Science Fiction section of my local bookstore, but I feel its appeal would probably be much more universal. It's the greatest and by far the strangest love story I've ever read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Make that four stars if the subject matter really appeals to you. The book is carefully crafted, and reflects the general care Letham takes with his novels. However the amazing imagination behind it is so well disguised as the mundane that you fail to appreciate it until the end. I miss the in your face strangeness of his previous work.
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