A boozy ex-military captain trapped in a mysterious vessel searches for his runaway son, an aging superhero settles into academia, and a professional "dystopianist" receives a visit from a suicidal sheep. Men and Cartoons contains eleven fantastical, amusing, and moving stories written in a dizzying array of styles that shows the remarkable range and power of Lethem's vision. Sometimes firmly grounded in reality, and other times spinning off into utterly original imaginary worlds, this book brings together marvelous characters with incisive social commentary and thought provoking allegories.
A visionary and creative collection that only Jonathan Lethem could have produced, the Vintage edition features two stories not published in the hardcover edition, "The Shape We're In" and "Interview with the Crab.
Audio reviews reflect PW's assessment of the audio adaptation of a book and should be quoted only in reference to the audio version.FictionMEN AND CARTOONS: StoriesJonathan Lethem, read by the author, Tim Blake Nelson, Kevin Corrigan et al. Random House Audio, unabridged, four CDs, 4 hrs., Music resembling the theme from Star Wars complete with bombastic kettledrums and an announcer who sounds like he's caught in an echo chamber ironically introduces Lethem's offbeat collection of short stories. Though the stories deal with the extraordinary (i.e., superheroes, super inventions and, in one case, a look into the future), themes of loneliness, despair and absurdity usually prevail. Each offering opens with a mood-setting musical backdrop, against which the reader introduces him or herself and the selection. The nine stories are read by eight readers and, from the start, the standard both literary and narrative is set quite high. Actors David Aaron Baker, David Krumholtz and Kevin Corrigan each present fine readings, ably setting the tone their stories require. Less convincing, but still entertaining, is Sandra Bernhard, who seems like the odd woman out in this nerdy man's world of comics and sci-fi. Conversely, the most inspired choice is John Linnell of the rock band They Might Be Giants. Lethem himself maintains the audiobook's high standard and performs his prose with a sensitivity that's sweet but never cloying. Overall, this is a satisfying, and sometimes surprising, audio collection. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 25).