Read 12/24/09 - 1/08/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author and genre
Oh Mr. Lethem. How you teased me! How you twisted and turned me! Filling my head with Chronic and Ice, leading me on a wild internet goose chase for those mystical chaldrons and Gnuppets (both within your novel, and on google), forcing me to read those sad hopeful letters from the astronaut stuck in outer space...
Different from anything I have read previously - Motherless Brooklyn, As She Climbed Across the Table - and from those that I own and have yet to read - Fortress of Solitude, Gun with Occasional Music, The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye - Chase Insteadman, an ex child star living off the residual income of his syndicated show, narrates Lethems 8th novel, which takes place during an unspecified time in Manhattan NY. He introduces us to some of the strangest, conspiracy-driven characters I have ever met: Perkus Tooth - a has-been rock critic with a wandering eye, who seems to leave the apartment only to post billboards with cryptic messages across the city; Oona Laszlo - Chase's almost, not really girlfriend, who ghostwrites for celebrities and will not allow Chase into her apartment; Janice Trumbill - Chase's astronaut girlfriend who writes him from a rocketship that is stuck in outerspace, surrounded by a chinese mine field; Richard and Georgina - pushed together at a party when Richard lost his apartment to nesting eagles...
Some other introductions: A tiger wandering the streets and sewers of NYC unchecked, unobserved (though the characters are able to track his whereabouts online), tearing down buildings and shutting down entire sections of Manhattan at a time. A certain type of ceramic vase which, when viewed through an Ice-induced haze, opens a mental doorway that causes our friends to question the world in which they are living, ponder alternate realities, and place unreasonable bids on E-bay in order to aquire one. An investigation into unhealthy obsessions with Marlo Brando and Gnuppets.
While not my favorite novel, it certainly deserves a read by serious Lethem fans. Beware first time Lethem readers! I would recommend that you wait and read Chronic City after you have experienced some of his other, earlier novels first. A slower paced, slightly moody story that introduces the darker underbelly of the city and our unlikely cast of characters.
Many thanks to Doubleday Publicity for sending me this reviewers copy!