Monday, November 7, 2022

Jonathan Lethem's "Narrowing Valley"

Here’s a translation of Jonathan Lethem, “Narrowing Valley" which appeared in the 10/31 New Yorker. Says Lethem, "The story admits that it also depends for its existence on an occupation of the text of R.A. Lafferty's “'Narrow Valley,' a text that the story’s author  first encountered in the anthology ‘Other Dimensions,’ edited by Robert Silverberg in 1973.” The subject of the "story" is the etiology of a story of the same name and the Winnebago to which the imagination of the alter ego who wrote the story is compared. The author goes on to say "The present story ow acknowledges that by basing itself o a specific earlier science-fiction story it is also indebted, paradoxically, to another: 'The Nine Billion Names of God,' by Carter Scholz which was based on 'The Nine Billion Names of God,' by Arthur C. Clarke. The writer’s "influences” by the way are cited as Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Laurence Sterne, and most significantly Jorge Luis Borges (in terms of its meta-fictive story within a story whose conatus takes on a life of its own). The Winnebago recalls Stephen King's Christine, about a car with a sense of agency resembling consciousness. “The past is huge, and real, but you are small. To reenter the valley of the past is, properly, to grow tiny, and to vanish.” Are these lines in themselves a metaphor for the “fiction,” as it were, going on “auto?” Naturally all of “Narrowing Valley” is being written on the lands of the indigenous native American tribe, the Tongva by a male white writer who is an "exemplar of the Exhausted Normative" a la R. Crumb's Whiteman and "Albert Brooks in 'Lost in America,' but will these lands be returned? The answer is plainly not as long as it remains in the pages of that bastion of colonization, The New Yorker. 

read "Transcendentalwasm" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "(I'm Just a) Love Machine" by The Miracles

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