Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jonathan Lethem and Paul Williams

This past weekend we had a visit from Paul's longtime friend, novelist Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn, The Fortress of Solitude etc...). Jonathan shared some stories with Paul, reminding him how they'd met at a science fiction writers convention in Berkeley in the 1980s... and how Paul had been wearing a Meat Puppets tee-shirt at the time. In fact, that same tee-shirt is still in a drawer here at our place, I never had the heart to throw it out. I always loved that he had a Meat Puppets shirt....and what a great underground band.

One of the charms of Paul and his wonderful brain, when it was working properly, was how open minded he was to music that was out of his realm of experience. For a guy that was so much a part of the 1960s he was not the least bit stuck there.

I was talking to someone recently about Paul as a music listener and recollected how Paul, when he was writing the One Hundred Best Singles of Rock and Roll-in the early 90s, wouldn't write off a single, (some suggested to him by friends with fannish fervor), until he'd listened to it nearly 100 times. He used to say, "you have to learn the language of the artist".

Paul introduced me to Jonathan in 1993, he was working at a book store on Telegraph, just before his first novel was released, Gun With Occasional Music. Jonathan let us stay at his place in Berkeley for the night and headed out of town, good thing, I was sick as a dog....high fever the whole bit, but I was wildly in love and Paul had a grand time combing through Jonathan's robust CD and record collection, playing stuff like Grant Lee Buffalo and Pavement for me while I broke the fever.

(photo by me at Paul's nursing home here in Encinitas,.... I might add our son Alexander-who just turned 10 this week,- was frolicking with Jonathan and Amy's boys Everett and Desmond while the boring adults conversed)


  1. He used to say, "you have to learn the language of the artist". That could, and probable should, be engraved over the door to any museum.

    Or religious gathering place. Who are we to define a God that we have not taken the time to understand ourselves?

    Thanks for this Cindy, and glad that Paul has carring visiotrs.

    Ken Jacowitz

  2. Nice to hear from you Ken.....yeah, Paul had some good quotes, for sure...