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Arts and Entertainment

A Guide to the Literary Jonathans, Part 1 of 4: Mr. Ames

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Now that novelist Jonathan Lethem has just won a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work, we thought it was finally time to clear up the confusion we’ve experienced around the 4 Novelist Jonathans who have all achieved literary and popular successes in the past few years.

Who wrote the Jeeves pastiche? Whose work is being adapted into a soon-to-be-released movie starring Elijah Wood? Who wrote the post-9/11 novel? Who likes comic books? Who eschewed Oprah’s Book Club? The answer is not all, but one. But which one? How to distinguish? After you've read our Complete Guide to the Literary Jonathans, you'll never be embarassed at those parties full of fiction writers again.

Without further ado, and in alphabetical order, we give you the Four Jonathans of the Book World. Today, we proudly present Mr. Ames. Stay tuned for the remaining three next week.

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Jonathan Ames

He is the author of the novels I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, and Wake Up, Sir!, and the essay collections What's Not To Love? and My Less Than Secret Life. He is the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs. His new book of essays, I Love You More Than You Know, will be published in January 2006.
Ames is a frequent contributor to magazines and used to have a column in the New York Press.

Ames Quotables
" I had the irritable bowel syndrome because this girl back in New York had broke my heart. I think the heart and the stomach are related." (Read the interview at Terminal 3.
"...after my first book which came out in 1989, I struggled for several years to write. Suddenly I had consciousness, "Oh, you put a book out in the world." And I literally had difficulty writing a sentence--without feeling the weight of that "people will read this." (Read the interview at identity theory.)
"When someone who's never read me is first getting to know me, and then they read my stuff, sometimes they'll be shocked or repulsed or worried about getting too close to me." (Read the interview at Bold Type.)

Why You've Heard Of Him, Probably:
Wake Up, Sir!, a story of P.G. Wodehouse's famous butler Jeeves helping a modern writer with the troubles of addiction, art, and love, is his most recent book and was positively reviewed and buzzed about. Current Amazon sales rank: 191,400.

Internet Fame
He also achieved some notoriety for writing an article for in which he proposed that Brooklyn's Williamsburgh Bank Building is the most phallic building in the world, then monitored reader response - and submission of other phallic buildings - on this website.

How To Remember Him:
Ames is a storyteller and comedian. He likes jokes about male genitalia, like Henry James's purportedly injured testicles. His writings are quirky, sexual, humorous, and inimitable. (We suspect that Ames has more sex - and better - than the other 3 Jonathans.)

He isn't afraid of the Web or technology, having his own personal website as well as helping maintain, with Michael Wood a website which looks into literary mysteries. A recent writer to that blog wrote, "Thank you for answering my questions about every gay literary rumor I've ever heard." He also boxes and doodles.

LAIST Jonathan Award: Mr. Ames is the Jonathan most likely to make it to old age without a nervous breakdown, stylistic crisis, or pissing off a major talk-show host. He's a Jonathan for the modern era. They should all be so happy-go-lucky. Next week: Jonathan Franzen!