Jonathan Lethem says Fariña was a ‘perfect’ teacher

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Author Jonathan Lethem called new schools chancellor Carmen Fariña "the best teacher I ever had" in a telephone interview with Capital Monday morning.

Lethem, who dedicated an early novel to Fariña ("Gun, with Occasional Music"), was in her 4th grade class at PS 29 in Brooklyn in the early 1970s. He called Fariña "perfect" and said he compared every teacher he ever had to her but none matched up.

At the end of the academic year, Fariña invited the entire fourth grade class up to her country house in the Poconos.

"I listened to Elvis Presley for the first time in her basement that summer," said Lethem, who is a creative writing professor at Pomona College in Southern California.

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"My parents were such hippies that we didn't listen to Elvis."

Lethem also recalled having his first root beer float with Fariña in the Poconos.

Because of her, he said, "I still think of that group as a magic group of kids."