Jonathan Lethem Hired As Pomona Writing Professor

By: Nick Hurwitz | Apr 22, 2010 | 483 Views News |

Pomona College has hired author Jonathan Lethem to become the second occupant of the Roy Edward Disney ‘51 Chair in Creative Writing. Lethem, an author of novels, essays, and short stories, is best known for his novels Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, a New York Times best-seller.

Author Jonathan Lethem will begin teaching creative writing classes at Pomona in Spring 2011.

The position had remained unfilled since Professor David Foster Wallace’s death at age 46 in 2008. The previous chair was called “the best mind of his generation” by notable film-critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times. He was, by most accounts, a beloved teacher who left a long shadow over the position. His 1996 work, Infinite Jest, was named one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923 by Time.

Lethem is a well-decorated author in his own right. He is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the Salon Book Award, and the MacArthur “Genius” grant. Newsweek included Lethem in its “Century Club,” a list of 100 people to watch in the twenty-first century. The New York Times called his most recent novel, Chronic City (2009), one the ten best books of the year. Lethem’s fiction is notable for skirting the edges of various genres, including mystery, sci-fi, and western, while maintaining a literary bent. He has contributed to The New Yorker, Harpers, and Rolling Stone, among others.

The hire comes at the end of an intensive search process that involved more than 75 applicants. The other finalists considered for the position were Chris Abani, a Nigerian poet and author who now teaches at UC Riverside, and Edie Meidav, a professor  at Bard College. An initial candidate, Junot Diaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, withdrew his application for personal reasons. Lethem has the highest name recognition of the finalists, but he has less teaching experience than either Meidav or Abani. He also lacks an Master of Fine Arts.

Pomona was able to pry Lethem away from Brooklyn, New York, his home for most of the past decade and the setting for much of his recent fiction. Lethem and his family will move to Claremont either over the summer or during the fall of this year, and will begin teaching for the Spring 2011 term.

About the Author

Nick Hurwitz is a Pomona sophomore from New York City. Like most Pomona students, Nick awaits the big bucks coming his way as a double major in English and Philosophy. In his spare time he enjoys feeling left out of TNC, wearing flannel, drinking way too much coffee and reading stuff. He is particularly excited to be the Pomona Correspondent for the Forum.

  • http://fakechineserubberplant.com Kevin Dettmar

    I’d only want to clarify that Lethem’s appointment is subject to Board approval, which is why Pomona hasn’t yet come forward with this story. We’re excited at the prospect of Jonathan joining us, but want to be respectful of the full hiring process, and the important role played by the Board of Trustees.

    • Here’s Hopingq

      Well, let’s hope they confirm. Pomona can’t exactly afford to be turning down professors for their English department, let alone internationally acclaimed ones.

  • http://fakechineserubberplant.com Kevin Dettmar

    I’d only want to clarify that Lethem’s appointment is subject to Board approval, which is why Pomona hasn’t yet come forward with this story. We’re excited at the prospect of Jonathan joining us, but want to be respectful of the full hiring process, and the important role played by the Board of Trustees.

    • Here’s Hopingq

      Well, let’s hope they confirm. Pomona can’t exactly afford to be turning down professors for their English department, let alone internationally acclaimed ones.

  • Madison

    Excellent news! Hope he gets hired.

    Also, glad to see we have a Pomona correspondent.

  • Madison

    Excellent news! Hope he gets hired.

    Also, glad to see we have a Pomona correspondent.

  • Jacques

    Superb. I’ve seen Lethem speak and read several times;he’s a phenomenal speaker and a born teacher. Also “lacks an MFA” is a cute euphemism–dude dropped out of Bennington after his first semester as an undergrad. He’ll diverge interestingly from Wallace in that he doesn’t come from the Academy, but he’s crazily erudite and no less accomplished for it. Bravo, Pomona.

  • Jacques

    Superb. I’ve seen Lethem speak and read several times;he’s a phenomenal speaker and a born teacher. Also “lacks an MFA” is a cute euphemism–dude dropped out of Bennington after his first semester as an undergrad. He’ll diverge interestingly from Wallace in that he doesn’t come from the Academy, but he’s crazily erudite and no less accomplished for it. Bravo, Pomona.

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  • Cara Daley

    Pomona.edu press release: http://bit.ly/b1PNjD

  • Cara Daley

    Pomona.edu press release: http://bit.ly/b1PNjD

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  • toomuchkirsch

    Not terribly surprised that he’s taking the spot. I can think of very few writers who would be as good a fit. And oddly enough, both are also named Jonathan.

  • toomuchkirsch

    Not terribly surprised that he’s taking the spot. I can think of very few writers who would be as good a fit. And oddly enough, both are also named Jonathan.