As She Climbed Across the Table

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014, 8:34 am

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As She Climbed Across the Table

Jonathan Lethem


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Lisa F



In brief


Black holes are no match for true love.

I first learned of Jonathan Lethem's As She Climbed Across the Table when it was included in a Huffington Post list of The 18 Most Hipster Reads of All Time. Hipster or not (I am decidedly not since, hailing as I do from a small town in western New York, it is impossible for me to drink cheap beer with even a hint of irony), the list is worth checking out as it includes some great reads by Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace and Karen Russell.

The blurb for Lethem's book caught my eye for its quirky and utterly unique premise: it's about a woman-- a particle physicist named Alice-- who falls in love with a black hole.

The black hole is named Lack because it is an emptiness, lacking definition, but it's not without preference. The team of scientists studying Lack soon discover that it will consume certain objects-- strawberries, paper clips, cats-- while leaving others behind. Alice is enthralled by the purity of Lack and its otherworldly conscience. She leaves her boyfriend, tries to offer herself to Lack, gets rejected. Then, things get really interesting for both Alice, her estranged and distraught boyfriend and a whole host of other wacky and well-drawn characters unable to resist the draw of Lack.

This tale could easily have strayed to the ridiculous, and it is very funny in places, but Lethem has created a true and traditional love story, albeit one with a black hole at its center, that is believable, charming, sad and satisfying.