Teasing Jonathan Lethem

In his latest collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem recalls the fate of the story he hoped would allow him to break into print. It was in early nineties; he was working as the fiction clerk at Moe’s Books in Berkeley.

He submitted it first to then-great hero-editor Gordon Lish, who exuberantly turned it down.

Then he sent it to me.

And I “teasingly” put him through a couple of rounds of rewriting before rejection.

Ultimately, the story won a prize, etc.

For the record, I wish to state that there was nothing “teasing” in my collaboration with Lethem.

I had been looking for something genre (science fiction) because I thought there might be a new Neuromancer out there.

So I was prepared for Lethem’s arrival. I hoped he could work his little story up some more. In fact, over the years, he has rewritten it several times.

But I wasn’t “teasing.” I simply made the terrible mistake of keeping the bar too high.

I should have taken a deep breath, bought the story, and discovered Jonathan Lethem.

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