Novel of the week: Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem’s new novel occasionally offers a witty vision of New York and a “brilliant” evocation of contemporary alienation, but remains a disappointment overall.
Jonathan Lethem’s new, 467-page novel would be better as a short story, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. In fact, it originally was a short story, which appeared in an anthology a few years back. The full-length novel follows a former child actor as he bonds with paranoid former rock critic Perkus Tooth and a small band of other eccentrics. It occasionally offers a witty vision of a slightly off-kilter New York and a “brilliant” evocation of contemporary alienation, but the concept that reality might be a simulacrum is wearying, even when peddled by the likably obsessive Tooth. Much is now expected from the 45-year-old author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, said William Deresiewicz in The New Republic. Chronic City thus rates as a “major” disappointment. Lethem has always written about “failed adults,” but in the past, he faced more squarely their gnawing sense of inauthenticity. This time, he takes their metaphysical musings too seriously, and winds up looking immature himself.