Although it isn’t labeled a short story--The New Yorker doesn’t seem to do that--neither is this “fiction” by Jonathan Lethem labeled a novel excerpt, which it surely is. (The Contributor note for Lethem tells us that his novel Chronic City will be published in October.) I was enjoying the read, more or less, until I noticed that story-wise it wasn’t going anywhere; a check on that Contributor note confirmed my suspicion, and the lack of an ending left no doubt whatsoever. So, we’ve got another novel excerpt instead of a story, and as much as I liked Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn and another story of his I’ve seen in TNY, this one gets a non-response from me. The sentences seem fine. Good, even. The protagonist--if this main character serves that function in the novel, as I would guess--has a funky name (Perkus Tooth), but I don’t think I’m interested enough by this to pay for the book, or read it, when it comes out.
The fiction begins with Tooth, a “wall-eyed former rock critic,” who isn’t well (there's been some kind of party) and is forced by a devastating snowstorm to abandon his home and find other shelter. Which he does, quite readily--in an apartment building for dogs. Thinking he no longer wishes human companionship, he becomes the roommate of a three-legged pit bull named Ava, who, loving him unconditionally, teaches him something about humanity.
Really? Whatever. I liked the dog.
May 25, 2009: “Ava’s Apartment” by Jonathan Lethem