Monday, February 28, 2011

Best It Was a Fine Read

Last week I finished reading this book called Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.  I don't have much Lethem experience, I read maybe two pages from The Fortress of Solitude and maybe two essays from the Disappointment Artist (my disappointment?  That he could make seeing Star Wars 21 times the summer it came out sound as uninteresting as he did) but this book, which I stumbled upon on a visit to the library, treated me right.  It had just the sorts of things I need to keep reading a 460 page book: odd yet likable main characters with weird names (for example, the main character is one Chase Insteadman, former child sitcom star living off his residuals.  He's got an astronaut girlfriend named Janice Trumbull stuck on the international space station) moving through a series of events and scenarios that basically resemble a plot (the main story of this story: Chase's friendship with one Perkus Tooth, former rock critic who now makes a living writing liner notes for Criterion Collection DVDs) set in a familiar location (New York City) where unfamiliar events are taking place (the year is never clear, but I'm saying it takes place in 2004.  Seems there never was a 9/11, but lower Manhattan is enveloped in a strange fog.  An escaped giant tiger wrecks havoc on the city, a ghostwriter wrecks havoc on Chase's life).  All in all, a enjoyable and satisfying read.  It made me miss other rambling books I've read before full of characters with odd names where anything at all may or may not happen, but the overall reading experience is a fine one.  That's why Infinite Jest is sitting on my night stand again.

Here's My Real Evaluation: How much did I like this book?  Not enough to tear right through it, but enough to renew it twice before having to return it (because someone had placed a hold on my copy).  And then I checked out another copy the next day to finish it, which even though I only had 70 pages left at that point still took me more than a weekend.  So let's say it's a grower that never quite takes over.

Also.  Something else to say about this book: Almost all the the story takes place on the Upper East Side.  I am thankful to Lethem for having made my least favorite neighborhood interesting to me and for causing me to smile in recognition whenever he referenced UES landmarks familiar to me.  It's a good book that makes you think fondly of your most unloved part of town.

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