Chronic City

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (2009) I read this book just after it was published, while I was living in New York, and it's very much a New York book. It's kind of an alternate reality story that focuses on several outsiderish (to varying degrees) characters, and it's ultimately somewhat ambiguous about the level of reality we are meant to interpret. All of that really appeals to me, so much so that I read it a second time. Some of the magic had worn off the second time around, and I was more trying to figure some things out about the story, maybe discover something new—though I wasn't able to relive, too much, the kind of weird discoveries the first time around. One of my favorite things about it is the way it uses actual people, occasionally, and actual places, a lot. While I was reading it the first time I had fun visiting some of the places referred to, like the Jackson Hole hamburger joint around the corner from Brandy's Piano Bar on the upper east side. I ate there once, almost feeling like I'd see the characters in the novel walk in. Later in the book it was destroyed, and later when I tried to visit again, it had turned into something else. I remembered hearing that Jonathan Lethem did some kind of marathon reading of this novel when it came out—I'm not sure if the whole thing (it's kind of long!) at multiple locations. I think that might have been the best way to experience this book—it's kind of a rock star idea—and very much in keeping with the spirt of the book. I would love to talk to that guy. Sometimes his writing infuriates me, and sometimes it intimidates me—but overall, I like the writing, and feel like I'd like him (it's an easy bet I would) but of course, it's probably a mistake to think you know him, from reading a novel. You get to know some great characters, though (though it's part of the nature of this book that you don't really know if you know them). I was expecting to see immediate news of a film version happening—you almost can't help casting it, in your mind—but at the time of writing this, that doesn't seem to be happening.