Brooklyn, a geographical form of insanity

Brooklyn, a geographical form of insanity

Jonathan Lethem on his writing process:

Jonathan Lethem walks as he writes. I don’t mean that he takes a break from writing and goes for a stroll, or that he thinks about what he’ll write when he’s pounding the pavement — though I’m sure he does both of those things. I mean that he does them at the exact same time. He has installed a treadmill in his office, moved his wireless keyboard to rest on its reading stand, and bumped up the point size on his desktop computer so he can see it while he walks.

It’s unclear if this is what allows him these insights about the neighborhoods in Brooklyn (he lives, as it happens, in my neighborhood, and I in his):

An interesting experiment, he says, is to ask people who live on lovely, leafy Bergen Street where their nearest supermarket is, and they always think of the other direction — Smith Street or somewhere that way. But here on Hoyt we go into a supermarket that seems oddly camouflaged — by its low storefront, by its windows papered by special offer signs, by its position on a stretch of warehouse wasteland. … “This is exactly what all supermarkets looked like in the 70s,” Lethem says. “That’s what the reality of New York City is — this overwhelming chaos of lives that are parallel but not touching.” It puts me in mind of a question asked by the hero’s father in The Fortress of Solitude: “Is Brooklyn itself a geographical form of insanity?”

Writing about lives parallel but not touching, walking on a treadmill in his office. Brooklyn: a geographic form of insanity.