If Jonathan Lethem had gotten his way, his new book, The Ecstasy of Influence (Doubleday, 464 pages, $27.95), would be subtitled “Advertisements for Norman Mailer.” Both titles are borrowed from other writers: The Ecstasy of Influence is a play on literary critic Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence, while the subtitle is lifted from Norman Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself. Mr. Lethem’s editor nixed the Mailer-inspired subtitle in favor of “Nonfictions, etc.,” which is more straightforward, but perhaps not as descriptive of this bursting-at-the-seams collection of essays, profiles, reviews, fictions and juvenilia. As its title suggests, the book explores Mr. Lethem’s many influences, literary and otherwise, but it does so in such a free-wheeling, frank and boisterous fashion that a nod to Mailer seems appropriate. At the very least, the collaged aspect of having one riffed-upon title jammed up against another would have hinted at the cut-and-paste extravaganza inside. Read More
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