He talked about "insteadness" which is a word he made up. Insteadness is when we are talking about one thing (say, Anna Nicole Smith) when what we really should be talking about is something else (oh, say, starving children in Africa, or people dying in Iraq, you name it). Insteadness has a sense of urgency and is charged with vitality. We are like cartoon characters running around saying, "something must be done." Insteadness contains fragments of symbolism and imagery, but never in a complete whole. Insteadness distracts us from the real issues.
"Sometimes it is embarrassing to be human," Lethem said, because we have such a tendency to get caught up in story and archetype. Now isn’t that an interesting way to look at it? I always thought of getting caught up in story as a good thing. Hmmm…
Anyway, the man has a way with words. He spoke of growing up in New York in the 70s, referring to it as a "dystopian society" which had recently seen the passing of feminism and the Civil Rights movement. Lethem pointed out that this is a unique American fantasy, always thinking the we just missed the Utopian past. What came before us was always better. And, this points directly to "the evocative whisper of the ghost of this nation’s founding."