- 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)
As She Climbed across the Table (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – 1 Mar 1998
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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.
"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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Being vaguely interested in physics made reading this book quite difficult to stomach, don't get me started on the hatred of science that the main character seems to express on... Read morePublished on 16 July 2010 by Gray
An interesting idea about human relationships with non-human objects, but the book doesn't really grab. It feels a bit like a short story that has gone on too long. Read morePublished on 12 Feb. 2006 by Jezza
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. Read morePublished on 4 Sept. 1998
A fresh, original look at boy-meets-girl, deconstructionism-meets-particle physics, the animal rights movement-meets-the black hole. Read morePublished on 7 Aug. 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 -... Read morePublished on 14 May 1998