Lethem has led a varied and interesting life. This is possibly why
his books have done so well, and his imaginative settings have been so
Lethem grew up in the Bohemian area of New York City. His mother was a
political activist and his father was an avant-garde painter. Thus he
had a natural instinct for the arts, growing up watching his dad paint.
In fact he went to the New York School of Music and Arts, where he did
many paintings, although nothing much to his liking. However, he did do
some writing while at school, producing his own magazine.
After graduating from high school, Lethem enrolled at Bennington College
in Vermont. While at Bennington, he realized that he liked writing much
more than painting and that it came easier to him. He ended dropping out
of college in his sophomore year and astoundingly hitchhiked across the
country to Berkeley, California with only forty dollars in his pocket.
Lethem spent most of his free time writing and learning more about the
craft. While there he took on jobs at used book stores.
Lethemís first published novel was, Gun, with Occasional Music. His
novel didnít jump out of the gate; not getting much attention in the
literary world. It wasnít until a great review of his book appeared in
Newsweek magazine, did the novel start to gain momentum. As the novel
gained more and more attention it received an award from Locus magazine,
and was a finalist for the 1994 Nebula Award.