Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 157 pgs
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Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem is an eclectic collection of short stories that range from the experimental to the surreal and traditional, but many of these stories lack the final punch readers make expect from short stories. While characters in these stories may experience smaller revelations, they often fall a little flat in the telling as the prose tends to be overly flowery or down-right boring. Of the collections that should be engaging to the reader given the title alone, they often lack the glitter readers will expect, such as “The Porn Critic.” And even these stories with catchy titles are some of the best in the collection, despite their flaws.

The first story, “Lucky Alan,” chronicles a neighbor who is obsessed with a reclusive Alan in his building and upon his marriage and later his growing family, the neighbor feels less important and pushed aside. In reality, he learns that this friend he tried so hard to win, was not who he thought him to be at all. And after the entire building sides with Alan, it is hard for him to continue living in a place that is unaware of Alan’s true nature. There are more nuances in the story, but they often get lost in the strange dialogue between friends and the situations that seem outlandish even in a large city of eclectic people.

In “The King of Sentences,” Lethem takes a look at the other side of fame, not so much the emphasis on the crazed fan, though there are some here, but on the perceptions we have of these famous people and how they may be very far from reality. In fact, the reality presented here is very scary for those of us who wish to meet those famous stars and writers we love. Meanwhile, “Their Back Pages,” seemed to be riffing off of Survivor and Lord of the Flies, but there are some pieces within the story that worked better than others, which made the overall effect of the story muted and confused.

Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem was a collection of stories with a lot to recommend it, but unfortunately, I can’t. I was disappointed with the individual stories and those that worked for the most part just didn’t wow me. Others might have a different view, but when reading short stories, I shouldn’t be falling asleep.

About the Author:

Jonathan Allen Lethem is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel that achieved mainstream success. In 2003, he published The Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times Best Seller. In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    I think I’ll pass.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    Sorry this didn’t work well for you.

  • Jeanne

    I found these stories more humorous than you did.