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As She Climbed across the Table (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – 1 Mar 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Mar 1998
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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: 13.1 x 1.4 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,751,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.

Review

"Exceptionally clever. . . . A book of compelling ideas, of intellectual conflict, of human frailty and desire. And it's funny."--Dallas Morning News
"Jonathan Lethem has succeeded in delivering a wonderland on the side of the looking glass," --San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Lethem is opening blue sky for American fiction. . . . He is rapidly evolving into his own previously uncataloged species." --Village Voice Literary Supplement
"Wickedly funny." --Columbus DIspatch
"An oddball tour de force." --Entertainment Weekly

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 20 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 10 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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