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You Don't Love Me Yet (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – April 8, 2008

2.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With his sixth novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, Jonathan Lethem continues to show off his dexterity with the form, following up the coming-of-age epic The Fortress of Solitude with a dreamlike, comic portrait of the Los Angeles art scene. Lethem craftily sets up his ruse with a letter of complaint from Falmouth Strand (a seemingly minor character) who warns us that the book we are about to read completely misrepresents the truth. Falmouth is a former installation artist who has turned from sculpting objects to "manipulating people's despair, pensiveness, ennui." For his latest project, he has posted signs around Los Angeles: "Complaints? Call 213 291 7778." The novel centers around Lucinda (the perfect, unwitting instrument for Falmouth's manipulation), a bass player in a would-be indie rock quartet with nearly enough good songs for a 35-minute set (if you don't count the two they don't like anymore). Lucinda has vowed to stop sleeping with the band's lead singer Matthew (for real, this time), launching a search for true love as drunken and misguided as the band's search for a decent name. She abandons her upscale barista gig to answer complaint calls for Falmouth's conceptual art piece. Before long, she finds herself drawn to a regular whose curious words are "like a pulse detected in a vast dead carcass" of daily complaints. By way of Lucinda, the "genius" complainer's words spark the band's next song, setting them on a shaky upward trajectory all too familiar in the art world. Various characters want (or don't want) to take credit for the song's apparent success, but who deserves it? The complainer who nonchalantly rattled off the words, Lucinda who wrote them down, the remaining band members who collaboratively put them to music, or Falmouth himself, who passively engineered the whole thing?

Fans of Fortress and Motherless Brooklyn may find this novel's levity too drastic a shift, but even though Lethem is having a great time here with wordplay, a motley cast, and Lucinda's sexual meanderings, You Don't Love Me Yet is anything but a simple entertainment. He plays with our notions of art and authorship, enjoying a bit of advanced cribbery himself as he experiments with Shakespearean antics and inexplicable love match-ups. At every turn, Lethem seems to be asking sticky questions: Can anyone create the consummate intersection of dream, desire, and reality that art (and great sex) embodies? Will it last, and should it? Can any one writer capture that moment with a few meager words? If they did, how long would it take for it to be reduced to meaningless slogan? --Heidi Broadhead --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Lethem (Fortress of Solitude; Motherless Brooklyn; etc.) strays from hometown Brooklyn to recount the near-fame experience of a Los Angeles alternative rock band. Its success depends on bass guitarist Lucinda Hoekke, an unwitting femme fatale whose irrational whims torture the artsy Gen-Xers in her orbit. When the novel opens, she's answering phones for a complaint line designed to also function as a "theatrical piece" and is charmed by the eloquent gripes of one serial caller, a professional phrase writer named Carl. (He's responsible for coining "All thinking is wishful," among others.) They embark on a sex-drenched bender that culminates with the band's debut performance—a breakout success. Lucinda is the band's "secret genius," having provided the ideas for the catchiest songs; only she cribbed them from Carl, whose cooperation must be purchased with a token position in the band. Zany disaster ensues in this entertaining but largely insubstantial romantic farce. Lethem tricks out the plot with his usual social wit (music moguls are "unyouthful men in youthful clothes"), but from a writer whose previous books have carved new notches on the literary wall, this measures up as stunted growth. (Mar. 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140007682X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076826
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Ginger Man VINE VOICE on March 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a more modest work than Fortress of Solitude or Motherless Brooklyn. It depicts a world much like the one seen in the long-running television show: Friends. The four band members have no spouses or children and little commitment to mostly meaningless jobs. They all get along and surmount the minor challenges posed by their lives. A break-up in one relationship leads not to heartbreak but to another partner in short order. Band member Matthew kidnaps a kangaroo from his job at the zoo but is allowed to return, animal in hand, to resume work with no harm and no foul.

The main character appreciates this existance. She prefers her friends to be "benign, enchanted and fond." Band members, Lucinda says, are "the dreamers, the fools, her only friends." She is 29, however, and recognizes at books end that she and Matthew are on the verge of "the true complete lives in which they would at last drown, the oceanic voyage into their thirties and beyond, through which their inchoate yearnings would be either soothed or disappointed, or both."

This book is fun to read in the same way Friends is enjoyable to watch. We enter a world of youth, absent of responsibilities and pain, in which we are led to believe everything will work out as we hope or the rough equivalent. Lethem tells us through Lucinda that "the answer to any remaining question was yes." She leaves hesitation behind and opens herself and her friends to wild magic in the form of the The Complainer. This encounter leaves band members changed and undamaged; safely deposited back where they began.

Perhaps referring to himself, Lethem has the only true artist in the book describe his role in this way: "I want what we all want...
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Format: Hardcover
3 stars seems about right. "Fortress of Solitude" was magnificent, although it was geared toward an audience of a particular age, that would get all the cultural references. The new novel also is based largely on Lethem's love of music, and tries to delve into the creative process. However, he doesn't quite make it. None of it really seems to add up to anything particularly grand or meaningful. As one example, there is a subplot with a kidnapped kangaroo that Lethem seems to tire of, and just let go. This seems like something unfinished that he thought, "Oh well, let's just publish this and move on." Interesting enough, but don't expect to be wowed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me start out by saying I love love love Jonthan Letham.
he has a knack for sci-fi and just good character development.
this book is less his sci-fi (climb across the table) and more character driven (chronic city)

a lot of people seem to not like this book and its a huge shame I found it honest, well written and so forth.
It's a quick read and not as in depth as some of his books I'll agree.
but I really felt a kinship to the protagonist.

It is fun but not very substantial. It left me with the same feeling I get from watching a sitcom. The characters seem to have more fun than I do without the interludes of pain, bodedom, angst, etc.

its an upbeat book (not his best) but its a good pleasant read and anyone that has been a part of a band or small town band scene will love this book for what it is.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book starts with all the promise in the world; a great setup, great characters, terrific dialog. It picks up speed from there, building into an intensely romantic, erotic liason between two characters (a scene that that filled me with writer's jealousy, because it was so incredibly well done).

And then it goes - absolutely nowhere. Lethem seems to want to write several novels here; one skewering the L.A. art scene, one about young, hip band on the verge of a breakout, one a funny doomed romance between a jaded, damaged older man and a wide-eyed hipster girl. These stories all might have made good-to-great short stories, or even two decent short novels, but instead, he grafts them together, failing each and producing a novel that's completely unsatisfying.

Lethem is a somewhat difficult writer. I say that because his books are always intelligent, slightly bizarre, and feature peculiar plots and un-satifying endings. I think these endings are a stylistic choice, not a failing; sometimes it works (Gun, with Occasional Music, Motherless Brooklyn), sometimes it does not (As she climbed across the table, Girl in Landscape). But with each of these books, the whole works and the endings fit; the product as a whole is good, sometimes great.

Here, it felt as if the writer were at a loss for what to do with these fantastic characters. It felt like one of those tacked on endings you get in films, when the end didn't test well and the studio requests a re-shoot. Suddenly instead of tragedy or artful ambiguity, you'll get improbably happy faces. The end of this book felt irrelevant and contrived.
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