Bestselling writer Jonathan Lethem — author of one of my favorite contemporary novels Motherless Brooklyn — has a new short story featured in the summer edition of the Paris Review. The story is called “The Empty Room,” and, once again, the background, childhood, moves to the foreground. It begins:
Earliest memory: father tripping on strewn toys, hopping with toe outraged, mother’s rolling eyes. For my father had toys himself. He once brought a traffic light home to our apartment on the thirty-somethingth floor of the tower on Columbus Avenue. The light, its taxi yellow gone matte from pendulum-years above some polluted intersection and crackled like a Ming vase’s glaze where bolts had been overtightened and then eased, sat to one side of the coffee table it was meant to replace as soon as my father found an appropriate top. In fact, the traffic light would follow us up the Hudson, to Darby, to the house with the empty room. There it never escaped the garage.
Another memory: my playmate Max’s parents had borrowed, from mine, a spare set of china plates. I spent a lot of time visiting with Max and, when he let us inside his room, Max’s older brother. So I was present the afternoon my father destroyed the china set. Max’s family lived in a duplex, the basement and parlor floor of a brownstone, a palace of abundance . . . Max and his brother had separate rooms, and a backyard. All this would pale beside the spaciousness of our Darby farmhouse. That was the point.
You can read the full text here. And please note: the Paris Review has just launched its first digital edition, letting you read the famous literary journal on your computer, iPad or mobile device. More on that here. H/T Biblioklept