The Smartest Table-Tennis Player in Brooklyn

It’s rare to see a newspaper profile of a literary critic, so I was amused to see the Brooklyn Daily Eagle‘s piece on Tom LeClair, whose work I became deeply familiar with as an undergrad researching Don DeLillo. (LeClair invented the clunky but useful term “systems novel.”) I haven’t kept up with LeClair lately, so I missed his wrongheaded savaging of Paul Auster‘s Man in the Dark in the New York Times Book Review, but the Eagle piece suggests he’s still a man with his wits about him, interviewed at his favorite table tennis haunt in Brooklyn:

A judge for the National Book Awards in 2005, LeClair doesn’t hesitate when asked which author he likes most. “One of the best living writers is Richard Powers. I think his work is really fabulous.” Among Brooklyn writers, LeClair questions Jonathan Lethem but has praise for Colson Whitehead. And, among his own works, LeClair seems most proud of Well Founded Fear — his novel released in 2000 about a Kurd living in Turkey. After the invasion of Iraq, scholars have pointed to this book as an important voice for the Kurdish people, long lacking a land of their own. “It isn’t like I discovered the Kurds,” offers LeClair, self-deprecating as always, “but they seem to be the refugee of refugees.”