I Don’t Love You Yet, Jonathan

My love for New York has been largely documented on this blog.  There’s just something about that city that makes my heart swell.  Perhaps it’s the comfort of feeling like I’ve been there a million times.  Although, I’ve only been there a few times on business and pleasure, and therefore just seen the first layer of the city.  It’s not like I have spent days upon days in New York – only a few here and there.  So why the connection?  I think it has something to do with the fact that it’s a city that references itself back at us in so many intriguing ways.  When you see Central Park, you feel like you’ve actually been jogging there already.  Or when you see the Rockefeller tree all lit up, you feel like you’ve been coming to view the tree-lighting ceremony since you were small.

And why is this?  Because you (I mean – I) have been watching Law and Order and listening to The Magnetic Fields and Luscious Jackson for years.  You feel like you know the city because you’ve been immersed in its pop culture and mystery since you were a teenager.  I long for New York even though I barely know its name. 

Now Los Angeles?  Los Angeles I’ve only watched at a distance, through the viewmaster of 90210 and People Magazine.  It’s never been a city I dreamed about visiting, nor does it have a real reference point of longing for me. 

All of this is to say:  I just finished reading You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem and I have to say I feel kind of empty now.   It’s set in L.A and is largely a book about the L.A. music scene.  It felt hollow and sad almost, much like the city felt when I visited it a few weeks ago.  To be fair, I was staying in West Hollywood and it wasn’t like I talked to any real humans.  But there was no buzz for me.  No charge from walking down the street (well, NO ONE was walking down the street so it felt kind of lonely anyway).  And I flew to Los Angeles just days after I finished the Lethem book, so that probably coloured the city for me.  Coloured it in beige and off-white walls.  Much like the Philippe Patrick Starck-designed hotel I stayed in.  I felt colour starved in that city.

Funny, as I mostly enjoyed Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn.  A better written novel, with more interesting characters and substance of story.  Much like the city in which it was based.  What is it about books set in particular cities that seem more interesting to me?  Am I that easy to manipulate?

***ummm..anyone from Los Angeles?  Please don’t be offended.  I choose to live in Toronto, for god’s sake, home of the blank stare.

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3 Comments »

  1. DJ Cayenne said

    I haven’t read this latest Lethem, but I will soon – even though he admits it is not his best work. I enjoyed Motherless Brooklyn, but the book that really brought New York alive for me was the Brooklyn in Fortress of Solitude. I loved that book.

  2. crazymumma said

    New York intimidates me, I have been twice, and once I did something so monumentally stupid and potentially dangerous that it has tinted it for me. I agree, NYNY has a mythic quality. Bigger than big. Realer than real. But everyone says I would love it if I tried again with my stupid hat taken off.

    LA. Curious about there as well for the same reasons. Myth and cultural references…

  3. Toronto – ‘home of the blank stare’ – laaauuughing. HARD.

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