Chronic City: A Novel (Unabridged)
by Jonathan Lethem
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The acclaimed author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude returns with a roar with this gorgeous, searing portrayal of Manhattanites wrapped in their own delusions, desires, and lies. Chase Insteadman, a handsome, inoffensive fixture on Manhattan's social scene, lives off residuals earned as a child star on a beloved sitcom called Martyr & Pesty. Chase owes his current social cachet to an ongoing tragedy much covered in the tabloids: His teenage sweetheart and fiancée, Janice Trumbull, is trapped by a layer of low-orbit mines on the International Space Station, from which she sends him rapturous and heartbreaking love letters. Like Janice, Chase is adrift, she in Earth's stratosphere, he in a vague routine punctuated by Upper East Side dinner parties. Into Chase's cloistered city enters Perkus Tooth, a wall-eyed free-range pop critic whose soaring conspiratorial riffs are fueled by high-grade marijuana, mammoth cheeseburgers, and a desperate ache for meaning. Perkus's countercultural savvy and voracious paranoia draw Chase into another Manhattan, where questions of what is real, what is fake, and who is complicit take on a life-shattering urgency. Along with Oona Laszlo, a self-loathing ghostwriter, and Richard Abneg, a hero of the Tompkins Square Park riot now working as a fixer for the billionaire mayor, Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the answers to several mysteries that seem to offer that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought: Truth. Like Manhattan itself, Jonathan Lethem's masterpiece is beautiful and tawdry, tragic and forgiving, devastating and antic, a stand-in for the whole world and a place utterly unique.
strange and wonderful... gets better as it goes....
15 Hours of Lost Life in the Avitarian World of Manhattan
A Sardonic Look into the Wasted Lives of Manhattanites--According to Lethem:
To read Chronic City, one might as well say that Manhattanites are clueless, pot-smoking, wool-over-the-eyes patrons of Nihilism. And according to Lethem, you'd be correct. So the question becomes not what is this book about, but instead, why did Lethem take the time to write such a meandering sprawl that lays waste to one of the best cities in the world?
Lethem rips on writers, agents, marketers, rock critics, movie critics, book critics, critic-critics, ghost writers, pot smokers, the New York Times, the New Yorker, architecture, animals, machinery, TV shows and actors (so I'll side with him on this one), endangered animals, hamburgers, The Lonely, the Smug, Manhattanites, ...hmmm...who did I leave out? There's more, but you get the picture.
What bitterness drove the writer to create a bloated, episodic work, that clearly lacks a plot as well as a heart? To Lethem, is this what our culture is? Episodic and metaphoric to authors who live in NY (and Maine)?
Where is the hope? (Not hope and change, just our humanist optimism?) Perkus Tooth, the 'metaphor' for the author and his friends, fails. Insteadman is purposeless, and at points, the author refers to him as Chase Unperson. In the end, Lethem leaves me feeling empty. I don't need to read to feel someone else's emptiness.
Time waster. But yes, Lethem does have some beautifully emotionlessly constructed sentences.
To write a sprawling Seinfeld episode for the literary is a colossus waste of time and life.