Girl in Landscape Paperback – 2 Dec 2004
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One of our most inventive, stylish and sensuous writers. -- Entertainment Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem is a science-fiction Western that evokes both the brooding tragedy of John Ford's The Searchers and the sexual precocity of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.See all Product description
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This is a bit different in that for all of it being set against a somewhat confusing SF-Western backdrop it is really a book about sexual awakening, coming of age and the perversions of man. Strangely the thrust of the book is lurking under the surface and does not really ever shine. You get the fealing that the author has tried too hard to fit too many things into one short book.
The final chapters seem particularly rushed, as if Lethem suddenly realised that the book was getting a bit long for a slim paperback. It is almost like a child who gets so absorbed in their english homework that they start writing something good, only to realise that they have already done their 500 words and cut the end of a good tale off in a fit of laziness.
The fact that Lethem (in these books) seems to want to show off his skill, at mixing and changing styles, at painting diverse characters, at rendering believable and solid worlds (all of which he does very well) makes me wonder if these books are not simply "journeyman" pieces, simply designed to show off his skill rather than to effect the reader.
They are wonderfully crafted pieces (aside from the ending of GiL) and I am left wanting to read his other books, but I wonder if I will ever find substance beneth the fine glaze that his words form
At first I was struck by some similarities in a novel I read 2 years ago ("Straitjacket & Tie" by Eugene Stein), but as Lethem's story progresses the clash between Archbuilders and humans becomes less of an alien/Earthling struggle and more of a metaphor of all explorers in new worlds, both on land and in the heart. It is hard to ignore the essential American frontiersman and Native American analogies that Lethem's story evokes as well.
What makes this book so compelling is that we discover the Planet of the Archbuilders and its secrets as Pella does. Discovery is part of the novel's rich landscape. Pella - a growing teenager confilcted with herself and family - tries so desperately to find a new place in a new world that she can call her own and, as a result of the alien virus, floats out of her body becoming a literal outsider - sometimes looking in on herself. There is also the alien's discovery of the English language and the way the Archbuilders (particularly Hiding Kneel) make use of its poetry and even learn to make jokes.
This is a novel that speaks to our very humanity forcing us to look at how we treat each other, how we exclude others because of difference, how we all keep looking for a new home - a better place where we can finally belong.
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