Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem

Past Event: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Sponsored by Gull Industries.

Jonathan Lethem wryly calls himself a “pop-inspired geek,” but critics and readers know he is not so easily pegged.

This genre-crossing writer first attracted a cult following for futuristic gumshoe novels (Gun, with Occasional Music, 1994) and apocalyptic science-fiction westerns (Girl in Landscape, 1998). His wildly inventive tale of a detective with Tourette’s syndrome, Motherless Brooklyn, won the 1999 National Book Critics Circle award, and a 2005 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award sealed Lethem’s status as an author to be reckoned with. In reviewing the bestselling Brooklyn saga Fortress of Solitude (2003), the Austin Chronicle hit on Lethem’s virtuosity: “Better than a movie, better than a symphony, better than a play, and better than a painting, because it is all of them.” Lethem in fact was trained as a painter and aspired to be a musician until admitting, “I was like a mumbling Lou Reed rapper guy. I can’t sing…I just try to make the prose as musical as I can.”

In addition to nine novels, Lethem has written two short story collections—The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye (1996) and Men and Cartoons (2004)—and thinly veiled autobiographical essays, The Disappointment Artist (2006). His most recent book is How We Got Insipid (2006). After living in California for years, he has resettled in the Brooklyn neighborhood of his boyhood.

Excerpt from The Fortress of Solitude(2003)
The best colors all have the best names: Pastel Aqua, Plum, John Deere Yellow, Popsicle Orange, Federal Safety Purple. A blind guy could steal the right paint just hearing the monikers. These colors are the necessities for throwing up a burner, a top-to-bottom masterpiece of flaming 3-D letters studded with rivets or bleeding from gashes, surrounded by clouds of stars, lightning bolts, and a Vaughn Bode wizard or Felix the Cat character standing to one side like a master of ceremonies. A burner comes into life either on the panel of a stilled subway car or on a handball court or schoolyard wall, an unsimple matter of five or six hours in the dead of night, two guys spraying paint, the more talented one handling outlines and fade effects, the lesser doing flat fill-ins, usually two more guys looking out at the end of the block or the entrance to the train yard. Plus ruining a set of clothes, coming home pore-and-tear-duct-clogged with pigment. Plenty more obvious than drugs, to a vigilant parent; the potheads have it easy.

Selected Work
The Disappointment Artist (2006)
Men and Cartoons: Stories (2004)
The Fortress of Solitude (2003)
Gun, with Occasional Music (2003)
Motherless Brooklyn (1999)

Author’s Website
Powell’s Books Interview
Fortress of Solitude at Penguin Random House

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.