Monday, October 26, 2009

The newspaper of record on Chronic City

From two reviews of Jonathan Lethem's new novel Chronic City (Doubleday, 2009) in the New York Times.

Michiko Kakutani, October 13, 2009:

"tedious, overstuffed"

"a lot of pompous hot air...the entire book...pretentiously — and clumsily — tries to create a kind of virtual-reality game version of Manhattan."


"coy ... juvenile and mannered"

"annoying and tiresome"

"an irritating bore"

"...these creatures inhabit neither a real flesh-and-blood Manhattan nor a persuasive fictional realm, and they’re so clearly plasticky puppets moved hither and thither by Mr. Lethem’s random whims that it’s of no concern to us what happens to them in this lame and unsatisfying novel."

Gregory Cowles, October 25, 2009:

"'Chronic City' owes less to Bellow (a scrupulous realist, after all) than to antic postmodern fabulists like Pynchon and Rushdie and DeLillo"

"knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line"

"In Lethem’s earliest work the tricks and extravagances and gymnastic prose sometimes seemed arch or mannered—merely clever—but they have grown steadily more confident, and here they serve the higher purpose of flinging Manhattan onto the page in all its manic and subject merge"



"we want it to last forever"

"'The Fortress of Solitude' was a great novel.... 'Chronic City' even better. "

"Even in an alternate reality—even in a fiction—passion and significance are everywhere if you know where to look."
(Image from the Knopf/Doubleday website.)

Update 4 December 2009: Chronic City has been chosen by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2009 (only five of which are fiction).

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