Our drive back was particularly easy, in part because we got up ass early like we usually do for return drives. This means that a good portion of the drive is over before driver and passenger reach full consciousness. Though the endless NPR cycles can be rather mind-numbing. Yesterday's, for example, followed the reports of the bizarre supreme court rulings with a singing lobster. Did anyone else hear that crap? Grr.
Luckily, though, we had Jonathan Lethem's short story collection Men and Cartoons on audio, which quickly overtook NPR even as it detracted our attention from the hills in the rear view. As anyone who reads Lethem knows, he has a flair for melding outrageous and mundane. Even the superheroes his stories hover around are third-rate and short-lived. The best instance of course is "Super Goat Man," who in his short, five-issue comic life battled "dull villains" such as "Vest Man" and "False Dave," but who finds a second life as the Walt Whitman chair in the Humanities at a small New England college. I think "Super Goat Man" is my favorite in the collection, in part because it puts Lethem's other-worldly stamp on the ever-fun genre of academic fiction. Lethem's ability to capture the tragedy in mediocrity makes his plots fit perfectly with academe. You can read "Super Goat Man" for free here. (I think--unless this site is just for New Yorker subscribers; I can neither remember nor tell.)
Probably the tightest, most vivid, and even most suspenseful story in the collection is called "The Vision." A bonus for me are his descriptions of Roberta Jar, the protagonist's "giantess" neighbor who "was six two, or three . . . and with none of that hunched manner with which women apologize for great height." I'm pretty sure Jar does not appear without some mention of her towerdom--she's even at one point described as "tall in her chair." That cracked this tall woman up. USA Today printed an excerpt here.