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Chronic City [Paperback]

Jonathan Lethem
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
Price: £5.85 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

6 Jan 2011

Chase Insteadman is a handsome, inoffensive former child-star, living a vague routine of dinner parties and glamorous engagements on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Meanwhile, his astronaut fiancée, trapped on the International Space Station, sends him rapturous love letters. Like Janice, Chase is adrift.

Into Chase's life enters Perkus Tooth, a wall-eyed free-range pop-critic, whose soaring conspiratorial riffs are fueled by high-grade marijuana, mammoth cheeseburgers and a desperate ache for meaning. Together, Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the Truth - that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought.

At once beautiful and tawdry, poignant and funny, Lethem's new novel is as always, utterly unique.

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Frequently Bought Together

Chronic City + The Fortress of Solitude + Motherless Brooklyn
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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571235670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571235674
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Lethem was born in New York and attended Bennington College.

He is the author of seven novels including Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which was named Novel of the Year by Esquire and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Salon Book Award, as well as the Macallan Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger.

He has also written two short story collections, a novella and a collection of essays, edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia, guest-edited The Year's Best Music Writing 2002, and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine.

His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's and many other periodicals.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York

Product Description


"Astonishing....Knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line.....Turbocharged....Intricate and seamless....A dancing showgirl of a novel, yet beneath the gaudy makeup it's also the girl next door: a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass."--"New York Times Book Review" ""Chronic City" is a feverish portrait of the anxiety and isolation of modern Manhattan, full of dark humor and dazzling writing....proves both funny and frightening."--"Entertainment Weekly""Exuberant literary revving.....Lethem's vision of New York can approach the Swiftian. It is impressively observant in its detail and scourging in its mocking satire. There are any number of wicked portraits....His comments on New York life are often achingly exact....So pungent and imaginative"--"The Boston Globe" "Ingenious and unsettling...Lethem pulls everything together in a stunning critique of our perceptions of reality and our preco --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

From the critically-acclaimed author of You Don't Love Me Yet and Fortress of Solitude, comes a searing portrayal of Manhattan-ites wrapped up in their own delusions, desires and lies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take it on its own terms 4 Feb 2011
By Verve
Seriously, when you are this skilled a writer, when you know darn well how to handle plot to greatest effect - think: Motherless Brooklyn; then why wouldn't you write a novel that isn't so much `plotless' but rather: plot free? This guy is a literary virtuoso. Skilled, ambitious, in need of further challenge and change. Though this isn't my favourite of Lethem' s works, I have to say, I take my hat off to him, it's a success, it's the work of a great wordsmith - and on that level I enjoyed it immensely. As it says in the blurb, `it's unique' - and I don't believe that's a euphemism for 'not that great', but more of the `hey, here's a great writer that isn't jaded, isn't complacent, isn't trawling out the same old, same old' - so let's applaud this man for that. Take it on its on terms, plot free (though not entirely), and heavy on great writing. For me, that's enough.
This is my favourite of Lethem's: Motherless Brooklyn
I also recommend this one by Jayne Joso: Soothing Music for Stray Cats
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "To whom does New York belong?" 3 Nov 2009
Jonathan Lethem's ability to create a reality on the page is undeniable, whether it be the mind of a young man with Tourette's Syndrome in Motherless Brooklyn or the vibrant life of street kids on Brooklyn's Dean Street in the 1970s in The Fortress of Solitude. With an eye for unique observations and an ear for the perfect words to describe them, he allows the reader to share his often unusual visions of people, places, and events. His characters, always quirky and often asocial, offer new perspectives on contemporary life. Often considered a "genre-bending" author, Lethem rejects pigeon-holing and confinement to a set of formulaic expectations. Instead, he lets his vibrant, energetic characters take him where they will, in the process forming new story patterns while providing new insights into old themes.

While this freedom for his characters has been effective and successful in previous novels, the characters in Chronic City are, unfortunately, generally weak and self-indulgent human beings, and letting them loose to explore their limited worlds does not translate into the evolution of grand themes and new perspectives. Stuck in their own worlds, often fueled by alcohol and pot, they dither and quake, avoiding responsibility and concerted action, as if their own lives are the center of the universe.

Chase Insteadman, the main character, is a former child actor, now living on residuals, which gives him entree into elegant social circles. He is the fiance of Janice Trumbull, an American astronaut trapped in orbit on an international space ship, who writes him long and sad letters, relayed by NASA.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reality? 28 Jun 2014
I kept comparing Chronic city, while reading it, with my favorite Infinite jest, centering the big difference between the two to the fact that Chronic city is a work of great imagination, talented writing and fascinating ideas but lacks the spiritual and linguistic frenzy that renders the Wallace's book its special place in the history of literature (to me it's him and Kafka and then all the rest).But as the criterion of a great book is whether you are more interested while you proceed(or hurry to get over with) ,I found out that I had misjudged and that Jonathan Lethem 's got a style of his own, with many references that intermix fiction with reality the way his characters do when they try to cope with the reality they live in, and a personal vision that reminded me of the works of Dellilo and Philip Dick, only that I find his writing more satisfying.In fact, from a point on , I was so fascinated I couldn't put the book down, with a plethora of feelings coming in,and even a distant memory at the end from my favorite John Carpenter and his Prince of darkness, regarding the fragile limit between what we believe to be real and what lies beneath the surface(the book, very successfully, never succumbs to the conspirational scenarios it is flirting with).So: Infinite jest still stands alone(although it maybe incoherent or fragmentary or even boring at moments), but Chronic city-which, in any way, is a very different kind of book-is the most fascinating book I've read the last years(and I'm reading a lot, including, lately, some very good stuff by Alice Munro and Denis Johnson) and I have a great appetite to dive into other Lethem's books the sooner I can.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Bored 18 July 2011
By Cazza
Maybe I was expecting too much from this book based on the cover blurbs but I was bored. Characters I couldn't care less about. Labouring plot. I used to live in Manhattan and I do recognise some of the satire in this book, and I did finish it, but don't recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unfocused or Beguiling? 17 May 2010
I didn't think that The Fortress of Solitude was a masterpiece when I first read it; but when I re-read it I was shocked at how dull I had been not to realize what a wonderful novel it was and is. So I'll be careful about Lethem's new effort. On the one hand I have a weird feeling of lack of focus; and an over-stretched plot. On the other hand, why couldn't I stop reading this even though the plot was meandering and the places and events and characters looked blurred (as blurred as Chase seen by Oona?).

Maybe I've missed something.
Maybe this is meant to be only apparently out of focus.
Maybe there's a subtext I managed to detect and some other readers missed.

Now try this: VALIS in Manhattan. What about it?

If that's true, there's a lot more to this novel than it may seem. Grey fog over South Manhattan: fictional fog or real smoke from 9-11? The tiger wandering in Manhattan: a surrealistic device to keep readers amused or Blake's Tyger unleashed? And what did they edit out of the NYT War Free edition? Why should the Chinese scatter orbital mines around the space station?

Lethem himself tells us that the characters in the plot have troubles seeing what is right before them. But this might also apply to us readers.
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