Saturday, June 4, 2011

Can't Get Into "Chronic City"

I just couldn’t finish Jonathan Lethem’s novel “Chronic City” (Vintage Contemporaries, 2009). I tried, I persisted, I got about halfway through, and then skimmed the rest. I thought I would like it because it is about New York City, and because the critics claim it shows the city in a way that it has never been shown before; the blurb on the back cover calls the novel “a searing love letter to the city.” The novel is mostly about a very small coterie of friends, mostly male; although one works for the mayor, and there is some ado about some citywide strange events, the novel seems to me claustrophobic and – OK, I will say it – boring. The narrator, Chase Insteadman, a former child TV actor, connects with the character Perkus Tooth, who is supposed to be, I guess, emblematic of New York cool and hip – or something like that. Tooth is a former rock critic with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, who now mainly smokes pot and hangs out either at his own apartment or at a nearby café where he always eats and drinks the same thing: a cheeseburger and a Coke. He gets fixated on trying to buy a certain rare type of ceramic vase on eBay, which he thinks has a mystical healing power. The novels mostly consists of many long, tedious, stoned conversations between Tooth, Insteadman, and a few of their friends, and a few walks through the city, none seeming to lead anywhere much. There is a sort of plot, but not one that held my attention. There is a sort of theme, something about “the pursuit of truth” (according to a New York Times review), but again, the way this theme is explored didn’t hold my attention. This novel was a bestseller, and was well received critically, so perhaps I am missing something. But personally I don’t recommend it at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter