My Thoughts on Chronic City…. So Far….
With a cover reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, and my mind still reeling from Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, I was really ready to surrender myself to the narrative, to submerge myself in this world of marijuana and cultural criticism. But after almost 400 pages now I can say without hesitation, that Lethem succeeds in illustrating over and over again just how post modern the conceits are in this book, and while the sensual details certainly pull me into his world, on a whole it seems to represent the tongue-tied stonerisms that sound great in the moment, but the next morning tend to cling to straws that are no longer present in the reader’s mind.
While there are more than enough golly-gee-biff-pow moments in the book, it tries so hard, the efforts in rendering the kind of literary special effects so labored that they tend to collapse under the weight of it’s own intentions. That is to say that reading this book will frequently result in the reader just trying to figure out what exactly Lethem is on about, and why he would want to bury his characters intentions into layer upon layer of indirect observations.
That Lethem is a master of language is not under question here, what is in question is why someone would go to such great lengths to construct a world, and it is a beautiful world, but fill it with the kind of language that leaves one feeling baffled and cold. There are so many memorable moments, but there were so many times throughout the book, that I could feel Lethem sweating this book out of his system, could see the man’s elbow poking out from the velvet red curtain. If he rested on his talents alone, and had faith in the wonderful characters he brings to life, the experience would be an all together different one.
File Under: In between love and like, like and dislike.