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Although Lethem scored a bizarro hit with his sharp and sly noir/sci fi/dystopian/detective outing, Gun, with Occasional Music, this book marks a step up in his game, at least to my mind.

Alice Coombs, (as in "Alice in Wonderland" one suspects), is a particle physicist engaged in an attempt to create a black hole in the lab. She succeeds, and "Void" is born. As she becomes more and more obsessed with Void she becomes more and more distant from her lover, Phillip. So we end up with the final Kafkaesque love triangle - Alice, Phillip and the ultimate nothing. Void, apparently a doorway to somewhere else, accepts some objects that are dropped into it but ignores other objects, which just pass through Void. It does not accept Alice and this is driving her mad with unrequited desire, (the desire to know? the desire to be wanted? the desire to meet Void's standards?)

The upshot is that we get narrator Phillip's thoughts about being dumped in favor of nothing, and we follow Alice's attempts to become attractive to nothing. In a brilliantly conceived twist a character explores this rabbit hole, and we find ourselves in a fascinating alternate universe that most surely must be an homage to the single greatest episode of "The Twilight Zone", (the "dimensional hole" in "Little Girl Lost" from 1962).

Lethem's books are smart, playful and edgy. Some can be rather dense, but this one is spare and fast paced, which I guess fits a story that is one extended metaphor. Lethem occasionally indulges in mockery or needling, but he's generally good humored enough to avoid the pretension and condescension that you can encounter with some of his contemporaries. That makes books like this more fun instead of a chore. So I'm all for it.
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on 8 January 2001
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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on 20 February 1999
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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on 25 March 2013
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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on 2 February 1999
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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on 10 June 1999
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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on 4 September 1998
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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on 14 May 1998
It's been a while since I read a book that at once struck me as so bizzare and wonderful at once. The strangeness of the premise - boy meets girl, girl meets void, boy loses girl - is well compensated by the charm of the characters. I found myself amused by the wordplay and captivated by the story. I highly reccomend this.
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on 9 March 1998
It's been too long since reading a novel has actually been fun. Lethem rakes everyone in Academe, and they all deserve it. Especially enjoy his language and sheer joy with words. This is the first of his novels I've read. Hopefully, Gun with Occasional Music will be just as fun.
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on 7 August 1998
A fresh, original look at boy-meets-girl, deconstructionism-meets-particle physics, the animal rights movement-meets-the black hole. I'll never again be able to look at Schrodinger's cat with a straight face.
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