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Labeling Jonathan Lethem a mere genre-bender doesn’t give the novelist his full due. In the decade or so following Motherless Brooklyn, Lethem has let his kaleidoscopic novelist’s eye wander wherever it damn well pleases—often with fascinating results. With Fortress of Solitude, the author added superheros to an otherwise reality-bound bildungsroman; Omega the Unknown found Lethem dabbling with a long-favorite genre; and he even took a shot at romance with You Don’t Love Me Yet. Between novels, Lethem has proven an adept cultural critic as evidenced by his memoir-ish collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, and his rhapsodic exegesis of The Talking Heads’ Fear of Music for the 33 1/3rd series. With his new novel, Dissident Gardens, Lethem chronicles American leftism through the 20th century—no doubt with the same sly artistry that has made his genre cud-chewing so, well, Lethemlike.