In his introduction, Lethem tips his hat to Advertisements for Myself
, lamenting that he was dissuaded from calling this similarly shambling, omnivorous collage of his diverse writings (stitched with new reflections) "Advertisements for Norman Mailer." That cue stands as promise or warning--the book rather brilliantly captures the Mailer mode: endlessly curious, frequently so damned incisive (on subjects so varied--the nature of artistic influence, the pleasures of Thomas Berger, Bob Dylan's aesthetic, bookselling, book-reading, book tours), as often frustratingly half-formed or overreaching. Its style--as in his work more broadly--an endless reinvention of the sentence, less a striving for some (foolish, hobgoblin) consistency than a delight in trying on new costumes. But always burrowing and borrowing and bubbling over with enthusiastic rigor.
Beginners beware--I'd steer you toward the leaner, more cohesive collection The Disappointment Artist
. That anthology drills the same territory--the intersection of biography and the fan's near-obsessive pleasures. This is a kind of criticism--a la Mailer--that I adore. This big new shambolic mess is a pleasure, but where the other is hedgehoggedly focused, here the fox runs all about, sniffing and biting at everything.