Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem








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For a break from Shakespeare in the Park this summer, consider reading Jonathan Lethem’s latest novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet. This romantic farce has many of the elements of a Shakespearean comedy, and you don’t have to sit on the grass if you don’t want to. Set in Los Angeles among the art scene there, an ensemble of characters meander around as Lethem displays his writing skills. One way or another, these meanderings allow readers to think about every question about art. Here’s an excerpt, from chapter 2, pp. 24-28:


She walked Jules Harvey to the gallery’s entrance, a precinct of chaos. The Annoyance’s photographer, a hulking blond in a leather jacket, slugged shoulder-loads of equipment from his double-parked van in through the doorway Just inside, Falmouth presided, gesticulating furiously. Explaining some point to the Annoyance’s writer, whose nodding dreadlocks shrouded the steno pad on which he jotted Falmouth’s words.

“Jules,” said Falmouth, interrupting himself when they walked through the door. “I’m thrilled to see you. We’re a bit of a mess. You met Lucinda, I see.” He bugged his eyes at Lucinda, a glare of panic reserved solely for her sake.

Jules Harvey nodded, his expression serene. Perhaps to him the episode on the sidewalk was a reasonable prelude to in­troduction. He dithered his hands, peering into the gallery’s dimmed recesses. “I’ll just have a look. . . there’s no hurry .

“Lucinda can show you the complaint office.”

Jules Harvey trailed Lucinda into the small maze of carrels. One of Falmouth’s interns, seated in her cubicle, waved her pen in greeting, then frowned back to her call. On the canary pad be­fore her she’d scrawled: nobody ever told me about aging/moistur­izer/death. Lights on Lucinda’s phone blinked, another three complainers waiting. Now they called in the morning, too. Falmouth’s genius or folly, whichever it was, had slowly ex­panded to swallow Los Angeles.

“Wait in there,” Lucinda told Jules Harvey, nodding at another empty cubicle. “You can listen, just don’t pick up the phone.”

“Sure.” Harvey adjusted his black glasses frames and took the seat, meek as a clam. Lucinda had to remind herself he’d in­vaded her periphery, robbed her private smells.

“Complaints,” she said into the phone.

“Say something so I know it’s you,” said the voice she recog­nized.

Lucinda had to catch her breath. “We’d be happy to register any dissatisfaction you’ve experienced, sir.”

“I had to hang up on that other girl three times,” the caller said.

“There’s no need for that now, sir.”

“Yes, I can hear it’s you.”


None of the other complainers interested Lucinda at all. They’d roused her curiosity for the first days, a week at most. Af­ter ten days she felt herself turning into a recording instrument. The complainers spoke of their husbands and wives and lovers and children, from cubicles of their own they whispered their despair at being employed, they called to disparage the quality of restaurants and hotels and limousines, they whined of diffi­culties moving their bowels or persuading anyone to read their screenplays or poetry. They fished for her sympathy Using Falmouth’s scripted lines she dealt with them crisply, addressing them as ma’am and sir, cutting them off before they’d become familiar. The only one that mattered was the brilliant com­plainer, who interested her entirely too much. His words were like a pulse detected in a vast dead carcass. They seemed born as he spoke them, blooming in the secret space between his voice and Lucinda’s ears.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about it since we hung up. When I was younger I used to love women’s bod­ies. I’d drive myself crazy picturing them. It was like women themselves were just the keepers of these glorious animals I wanted to pet. I kept trying to push them out of the way so I could get to this agenda I had with their, you know—flesh.”

Lucinda was grateful now for the gallery’s infestation by the journalists. Falmouth would be kept at bay. If only there hadn’t been an armpit sniffer one cubicle away She hoped Jules Har­vey was listening to the intern’s calls, not her own. Lucinda could hear the intern murmuring assent into her receiver, her pen scribbling noisily, filling the pages of legal pads with ac­counts of complaint, as Falmouth required.

“Later,” the complainer went on, “I realized it wasn’t women’s bodies I loved, it was women, actual women. I know that doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. But women became my actual friends.”

“That doesn’t sound like a problem,” whispered Lucinda.

“For a while it wasn’t. For a while I was happy to have sex with the bodies of my friends. But eventually it wore me down. I couldn’t remember what I loved about the bodies because I’d become too fond of the women. It was like a vicious triangle.”

Jules Harvey’s baseball cap and gleaming lenses rose on the horizon of her carrel. Lucinda turned away pretended she hadn’t noticed. Thinking of Falmouth’s imperative, she blurted: “What exactly is your complaint, sir?”

“Same as always,” said the complainer. “Nostalgia, except it’s not just regular nostalgia. More like nostalgia vu. Longing for longing, instead of for the thing in question.”

Lucinda printed L-O-N-G-I-N-G, shielding the pad from view with her shoulder. When she turned, however, she saw Jules Harvey padding in his high-tops through the doorway, through the gallery front.

“Women’s bodies don’t interest you anymore?” she asked. She instantly regretted a question which sounded too interested.

“I can’t even think about women’s bodies clearly now, that’s what I’m trying to explain. All I can think about is particular women. Their faces, their words. The bodies are totally eclipsed. It’s like I can’t see the sun anymore. I used to have a sense of purpose in life.”

“A guy stuck his face in my armpit a few minutes ago,” she whispered. “A total stranger, at a restaurant.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“I’m in shock, I guess. He crept up while I was sitting with my eyes closed.”

“See, there’s a person with priorities.”

“I don’t think he’s much of a person at all.”

“I bet you he’s a leader in his field. Those types thrive in the modern world.”

“He’s not as assertive as you’re imagining. He drifts around like a human dandelion. I should have knocked his block off, but he’s too sad-looking.”

“Now you’re making me jealous. I’m sure I’m twice as sad-looking as your dandelion man—”

Falmouth and the journalist swept into the maze of cubicles, Falmouth babbling in a continuous stream, alive to his imagined public. The photographer orbited, snapping with a tiny camera in his meaty paws.

“Can I call you later?” Lucinda whispered.


“Give me your number. I can’t talk now.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I’ll explain later. I have to start taking complaints.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing.”

“Yes, but—”

“I’ll call you,” he said, and hung up.


Lethem is a fine writer, and You Don’t Love Me Yet allows readers to see many of the ways in which he can have fun and share it with the rest of us. Take a light hearted approach to this, and you’ll come away with the most satisfaction.


Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2007 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/You Don't Love Me Yet.htm


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