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This Shape We're In Hardcover – February 1, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Brooklyn and Maine.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 55 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970335520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970335524
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,699,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"This Shape We're In" is, to make no bones about it, a minor work from the strange genre of fiction that he's created in his last 6 books. It's a short story, but unlike those collected in "Wall of the Sky..." it's a much quieter and contemplative story. Talking about the plot would too easily give up some of the fun of reading it. Within the first 5 pages, a twist that most writers would have left for a jarring Twilight Zone kind of ending is told nonchalantly. For the rest of the book, you marvel at the depths of Lethem's ability to weave as big a world as he does in a mere 55 pages, and forget about how he's going to cap it all.
Lethem's primary strength seems to be to focus on a genre and get inside it and then twist it around and turn it into some strange new transmutation...where genre conventions get thrown out the window and replaced with these odd new parts that are vaguely out of place, but still run perfectly in sync.
For what it's worth, Lethem has yet to write a book that can be considered "bad" or even "mediocre". If you're a fan of Lethem, or just considering dipping your toe in, this book is essential stuff. If anything, it's a nice snack to tide you over until Lethem's newest book comes out.
For 9 bucks, you aren't going to get a much better package. Well put-together, beautiful cover by Chester Brown (of Ed the Happy Clown and The Playboy fame) and you're supporting McSweeney's Books, who seem hell-bent in delivering the literary goods without resorting to big-imprint prices. Go get it, for the good of the written word.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lethem has proven himself to be a virtuoso of story-telling. His books, for the most part, inhabit a plane of existence that defies much classification, and they wield their creativity with the force of a sledgehammer but the precision of a scalpel. Although his work can sometimes be uneven, it is always entertaining, and certainly never average or boring (to be fair, though, his short stories are hit-and-miss).

This little nugget is, for the most part, a success, but it also comes across as only partially-formed. And although it is, as usual, beautifully and skillfully told, it seems to be less a fully realized tale and more a creative exercise. Lethem, here, is just stretching is literary limbs. Consider listening to a highly touted operatic singer practicing her scales: it's still beautiful singing, and it may even be fun to listen to, but it isn't a song, and there's just not that much to it.
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Format: Hardcover
Lethem's longer works are, naturally, more involved than this bite size portion (55 pages). But don't let that scare you, this book should not fall through the cracks! It delivers an odd tale about a disorganized band of misfits lumbering through an almost unrecognizable landscape which is still strangely familiar. If that sentence describes the kind of fiction you like to read, grab this book, and you won't be disappointed. There is plenty of symbolism, shades of Kafka, Borges, Calvino, etc., and the prose is very smooth. No doubt you'll be looking forward to more Lethem quite soon after finishing. The ending will likely leave you perplexed and thinking. (ps- I maintain a Lethem website-- take a look
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, when one judges this book, it should be judged using the correct criteria. This is not an amazing novel, nor is it a story for the ages. What it is is a funny little story and it should be judged as such. Taking the Trojan horse from the Iliad and mixing it with Fantastic Voyages, generation ship Sci-fi, and the Simpsons is a really funny idea. If this book were any longer it would have failed. Any shorter and it would have been a footnote. As it is, it is a very successful and amusing tidbit.
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Format: Hardcover
As I read the 55 pages of *This Shape We're In*, I kept thinking that I was reading a Philip K. Dick story; this was something I couldn't shake all the way to the end and enhanced by the fact that this is the first thing I have read by Jonathan Lethem, and because of this I look forward to reading more.

It would be difficult to say much about the plot because almost any detail would spoil the reading of this book and the answer to the question that runs through this book: what is the Shape that the characters live in - a multi-generational spaceship? A fallout shelter? - and what will the Eye see - Interstellar space? A nuclear wasteland? That is the most I can give away without ruining the fun of reading this little novella.

And, again, this book would do Philip K. Dick proud! I don't know if Lethem intended this or if his books are very Dickian as a whole.

Hats off once again to McSweeney's Books for bringing this book to us.

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A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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Format: Hardcover
A strange, surreal book. It would be useful if I could compare it to something, but that's just not possible... A man travels through the insides of a cow looking for his lost son, who he believes has found the eye and is observing the outside world. Along the way, he passes groups of people who are barbecuing parts of the living cow, having orgies, whatever. Yes, odd...
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