Jessalyn Hill's Reviews > Chronic City

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
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's review
Feb 17, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction

This book is HIGHlarious. (Oh yeah, and disclaimer: this reviewer is not obsessed with New York City and totally missed the 1970s, so suffice it to say I did not 'get it' like others may have 'gotten it'...but I still got it. Got it?) The dynamic character Perkus Tooth consumes only coffee, pot, and cheeseburgers. Occasionally a bagel. Lethem is a master at depicting stoner culture. He KNOWS, man, he knows. There's this scene where four of the characters are huddled around Perkus' computer, totally blazed, bidding thousands of dollars on chaldrons on Ebay. I was howling with laughter during this scene, it felt so real! I have a feeling that people who frown upon marijuana will have a hard time with this book. Does anyone wish to confirm/deny?

So, this is a great post-modern-modern-modern novel. Sorry, I just really hate the term 'post-modern,' but there's no denying that this book embodies whatever that phrase means.

Here's the thing with books like these, you know, books that are filled with larger-than-life, totally INSANE characters (the post-modern thing being that they're not as insane as you think, or at all, not that I actually know what 'post-modern' means): you kind of need to have a really boring (albeit sane) character as your narrator. You need to be able to trust that these characters are really as cray-cray as the narrator describes them, so the narrator needs to be a little boring, unbiased, or, at best, mysterious. Lethem did a really great job with this in Chase Insteadman. He got a little self-reflective with it, having a minor character accidentally call him 'Chase Unperson.' Ha! That was great. What point am I trying to make here? I forgot, I'm vicariously stoned after reading this book.

I need coffee and a cheeseburger. Three stars for being hilarious, but falling a bit short of poignancy.

UPDATE: Something just occurred to me. This book takes place in Manhattan in 2005, yet there was no reference to 9/11 at all. It fits perfectly between the storyline of the tiger and the astronaut, right? Or maybe 9/11 IS the tiger, and the astronaut. Whoa. Tripping myself out here. Got to go ponder this, and by 'ponder,' I mean 'Google.' Of course.

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