by Jonathan Lethem
I’m not sure if I can adequately describe this book. Someone way above my pay grade will do a much better job. But here goes.
Chronic City, like Netherland, is a story about unlikely friendships in New York City. Chase Insteadman is a former child actor who has given up the biz and just spends his time basically hanging out. He is relevant though because of his engagement to astronaut Janice Trumbull who is trapped on a space station orbiting earth that can’t seem to return. Her letters to him about her situation are published in the papers so everyone knows his plight and that secures his status on the social scene.
Chase befriends Perkus Tooth (all the names and situations in this book are outlandish), a pot-smoking, conspiracy fueled pop critic whose eccentricities are a full-time job. Because of Perkus, Chase is drawn into a whole new world of characters that traverse society and politics (things, by the way, that Perkus has no patience for). There’s Oona Laszlo, a ghostwriter who gives the air of being above it all, and Richard Abneg, a coarse brut of man who works for mayor but finds himself entering the arena of high society. Chase, Oona, and Richard all orbit around Perkus and his quest to solve certain mysteries. What follows is a weird, funny, tale that includes public art, life in cyber space and of course, a runaway tiger that’s eating Manhattan.
The writing is magnificent and imaginative and at sometimes a little too much for me, in the sense that it was a little wordy. I was reading this during the Christmas season, and my patience was a little short, so I kind of powered through the ending.