Coincidentally, a copy of Lemon arrived at my office the day my boyfriend dumped me. Lemon is about a guy who gets dumped by his girlfriend and finds "new love--or obsession at least--in a small, perfect, yellow fruit." Having just been dumped myself, I wasn't sure I needed any help torturing myself a little more, thinking about love, loss, heartbreak, and obsession. The book, however, is more quirky than introspective, and it provided much-needed relief from the usual post-breakup despair.
Wendell, the main character, is in love with his little lemon. He talks to it, watches TV with it, dines with it, and takes it to work. When stuck on a bad blind date set up by his friends, he runs out to buy a substitute lemon to console him until he gets home.
Wendell revels in the minutiae of lemon history, much in the same way that a lover wants to learn everything about the life of a lover. Parts of the book are downright hilarious. Wendell's relationship with the lemon is questioned, with genuine comedic effect, by his family, friends, co-workers, boss, and even the neighborhood kook. "Do you talk to it?" whispers his mother. "Yes I do. But not condescendingly. Not like to a dog." "Does it talk back to you?" "Mom, it's a lemon." "Is it a talking lemon?" "It speaks, yes, in a way to me, but not out loud. I'm not insane."
The text of Lemon is an amalgamation of dialogue, poetry, the poetry-like rambling thoughts of the main character, and stories about and references to lemons throughout history. There's some other stuff too: stuff that readers need to interpret for themselves. I had the opportunity to meet the author, Lawrence Krauser, at a reading of Lemon. Krauser emphasized that people should interpret the book on their own. "It's like a Rorschach," he said.
For years, Krauser was unable to get any company to publish his book. But Dave Eggers, icon of postmodern literature and creative mastermind behind McSweeney's Books, took an interest in Lemon. McSweeney's published the book and gave Krauser an unusual level of control over the whole design. Krauser hand-drew 10,000 unique covers for the initial print run of 10,000 books; Krauser said that the cover-drawing idea started off as a joke, but quickly became reality. "At first we were going to delegate 500 here, 500 there to celebrity guest drawers, but once I started doing it, I had to do them all. It had to be pure. It's become addictive. I don't know what I'll do when it's done." At least for the time being, Lemon is Krauser's obsession.