Mark Harris
November 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Men and Cartoons

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Jonathan Lethem
publisher
Doubleday
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

It’s always a pleasure to have a new book by the author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, and Men and Cartoons almost qualifies as one: It’s an ultra-slender volume of nine stories, all but one previously published. Most are set in what fans will recognize as the Letheverse: a world in which loss, loneliness, regret, and romance are no less real because they’re enfolded within a sci-fi conceit (in ”The Spray,” two people toy with an aerosol that makes missing things — and people — fleetingly visible) or lived out by comic-book characters (the book’s jewel, ”Super Goat Man,” makes credible the idea that a retired, third-rate super-hero would end up in a campus teaching job). There’s more filler here than a short book should contain — couldn’t a collection have waited a couple more years? — but the best of these stories offer potent little distillations of Lethem’s considerable imagination.

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