What Jonathan Lethem Can Expect in California

So the novelist’s leaving his Fortress of Solitude to fill the Pomona teaching position left vacant by the dearly departed David Foster Wallace. To mark the occasion, a brief history of past writers’ sojourns to the Sunshine State.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – Moved to Hollywood to write screenplays. Went broke, drank himself insensate, died.

William Faulkner – Moved to Hollywood to write screenplays. Some success, heavy drinking, then writer’s block. Escaped back to Mississippi. Also (eventually) died.

Barton Fink – In the Coen brothers’ film, a young New York playwright moves to Hollywood to write screenplays. Throughout the film, a thinly-veiled William Faulkner character drinks himself insensate, and Fink himself gets nothing done. Oh, and his hotel ends up on fire and his neighbor might be Satan.

Clifford Odets – Moved to Hollywood to write screenplays. Later named names for the House of Un-American Activities to avoid being blacklisted; tormented forever afterward.

Henry Roth – His newly published posthumous novel An American Type is about a young writer who leaves not one but two women in New York City for California. He goes broke and returns a humbled man.

Good luck, Lethem!

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