Lethem illuminates the process by which a child invents himself as a writer, and as a human being, through a series of approaches to the culture around him. In the title piece, a letter from his aunt (a children's book author) spurs a meditation on the value of writing workshops, the role and influence of reviews, and the uncomfortable fraternity of writers. In 'Defending The Searchers', Lethem explains how a passion for the classic John Wayne Western became occasion for a series of minor humiliations. In 'Identifying with Your Parents', an excavation of childhood love for superhero comics expands to cover a whole range of nostalgia for a previous generation's cultural artefacts. And '13/1977/21', which begins by recounting the summer he saw Star Wars twenty-one times, 'slipping past ushers who'd begun to recognize me...', becomes a meditation on the sorrow and solace of the solitary moviegoer.