Saturday, October 24, 2009

So, should we read ‘Chronic City,’ or what?

Gregory Cowles in The New York Times on Oct. 25, loves "Chronic City":

"Now, in his bravura eighth novel, "Chronic City," he visits what may be his strangest destination yet: the Upper East Side of Manhattan."

The San Francisco Chronicle does, too. Plus, I once interviewed Sonic Youth:

Since Jonathan Lethem's ingenious and unsettling new novel "Chronic City" is packed with so many musical references, it seems appropriate to compare the novel to an album by the band Sonic Youth, in that it revels both in the harmonious and the dissonant.

Michiko Kakutani,on the other hand, panned it:

"In one of the many marijuana-fueled conversations in this tedious, overstuffed novel, the hero Perkus Tooth asserts that it's "common knowledge we could be living in a gigantic computer simulation unawares."

Ron Charles, in The Washington Post, splits the difference:

"Jonathan Lethem's brilliant, bloated new novel about the hollowness of modern life should delight his devoted fans -- and put them on the defensive."

Carlo Wolf in The Christian Science Monitor has reservations, too:

"Jonathan Lethem concocts an often intoxicating but occasionally irritating fable of intellectual life in the Manhattan of the near future in Chronic City, his latest exploration of urban life."

The L.A. Times goes off on its own, thanks to Akiva Gottlieb, who seems to have read a lot of Lethem's work:

"But then, "Chronic City" may be less Lethem's attempt at a literary magnum opus than a ready-made cult item with its own subterranean wavelength."

Maybe I should start with "Fortress of Solitude" instead. Or write my own Brooklyn novel (or play). I lived there in the 1980s, after all.

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