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Dissident Gardens

A Novel

Lethem, Jonathan

(Book - 2013)
Average Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
Dissident Gardens
Print
"A dazzling novel from one of our finest writers--an epic yet intimate family saga about three generations of all-American radicals At the center of Jonathan Lethem's superb new novel stand two extraordinary women. Rose Zimmer, the aptly nicknamed Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, is an unreconstructed Communist and mercurial tyrant who terrorizes her neighborhood and her family with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her brilliant and willful daughter, Miriam, is equally passionate in her activism, but flees Rose's suffocating influence and embraces the Age of Aquarius counterculture of Greenwich Village. Both women cast spells that entrance or enchain the men in their lives: Rose's aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her nephew, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam's (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinging husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. These flawed, idealistic people all struggle to follow their own utopian dreams in an America where radicalism is viewed with bemusement, hostility, or indifference. As the decades pass--from the parlor communism of the '30s, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, ragged '70s communes, the romanticization of the Sandinistas, up to the Occupy movement of the moment--we come to understand through Lethem's extraordinarily vivid storytelling that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal. Brilliantly constructed as it weaves across time and among characters, Dissident Gardens is riotous and haunting, satiric and sympathetic--and a joy to read"--
Publisher: New York :, Doubleday,, [2013]
Edition: First Edition.
ISBN: 0385534930
9780385534932
Characteristics: 366 pages ;,25 cm

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Jan 04, 2014
  • lukasevansherman rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

"There was music in the cafes at night, revolution in the air."-Bob Dylan
Jonathan Lethem's newest novel, his ninth, is also one of his best. I say this as someone who has mixed feelings about him as a writer, although I prefer him to other Jonathans like Franzen and Safron Foer. This might be his most direct and sincere novel, focusing on a family of Jewish radicals in NYC over the course of many decades. The themes of leftist politics, folk music, Judaism, New York City, culture and identity are handled well, but are also very familiar and I wouldn't say he does anything innovative or revealing with them. Still, it's an enjoyable, interesting read and its recreation of the musical and political stew of the late 60s will appeal to a wide audience. Check out "Inside Llewyn Davis" for a darker and more provocative look at a similar environment (sans the politics though).

"A multi-generational saga that focuses on two extraordinary women: tyrannical Communist Rose, who terrorises her neighbourhood with her absolute beliefs, and her brilliant but wilful daughter, Miriam, who flees her mother's suffocating influence to embrace the Age of Aquarius counterculture of Greenwich Village." Fiction A to Z December 2013 newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=711899

Dec 06, 2013
  • kkelly00 rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Narrowly focused on leftists in Queens
Could not finish as it dragged

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app07 Version gurli Last updated 2014/12/09 10:52