CHRONIC CITY [2009], by Jonathan Lethem

Chronic City

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 9/10

Though I’m totally aware that this is not a “perfect” book, or even a must-read that can be easily recommended, this is certainly one of my favorite novels. I’ve read it twice now in the last year and a half and I’ll admit that I enjoyed it more the second time, since I knew what to expect.

It’s hard to imagine a book so wordy and so much about pot-heads and socialites (mostly pot-heads!) sitting around discussing conspiracy theories and pop culture to be so darned interesting but Chronic City is just that. A dense read, well-crafted with enough mystery for those who like it and enough ambiguity for those who don’t. Throw in ideas such as a giant tiger prowling the streets of Manhattan, mysterious chaldrons and astronauts trapped in orbit by Chinese space mines and you’ve got me hooked.

Jonathan Lethem dazzles me with his vocabulary and inspires me to keep honing my own craft. In my mind, a masterpiece! Chronic City has its flaws – I could have done away with the dog-heavy chapters in the last 1/4 – but not enough to keep me from a third reading in the future.

Favorite Books I Read in 2013

My Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge saw me complete 46 books this year! Granted, many of these were graphic novels but there were also 16 novels, which is probably the most I’ve ever read in a single year. I’m a slow reader, give me a break.

Not counting books that I re-read this year (I’m always re-reading favorites), I’ve narrowed down my Top-5 Books that I discovered in 2013. Here goes:

Chronic CityCHRONIC CITY, by Jonathan Lethem

I’d been putting off reading Jonathan Lethem long enough so I decided to read three of his books this summer. First was Motherless Brooklyn. Next came Fortress of Solitude. And finally I read Chronic City. I was most excited to read ‘Fortress’ since this was the author’s seminal work. And I liked it. But I LOVED Chronic City. Maybe it was because it came unexpectedly. Maybe because it had the most polarizing reviews of the three. But probably because it’s just so very New Yorky, and more similar to my own writing. This is a very odd book with not too many likable characters, and it did lag a bit around the 3/4 mark, but in the end it struck me as the most special of Lethem’s “trilogy.” I even grabbed my own copy of Chronic City afterwards and I’m looking forward to reading this one again in the not too distant future. A very underrated novel.

Norwegian WoodNORWEGIAN WOOD, by Haruki Murakami

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

 

Worst. Person. Ever.

WORST. PERSON. EVER. by Douglas Coupland

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

 

Bright Lights Big CityBRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY, by Jay McInerney

Billed as an American classic, this was a book I was always wanting to read but could never find a copy. Finally, after receiving a copy last Christmas, I immediately tore into it and I was certainly not disappointed. It is a little stuck in the Eighties, which is possibly the worst time period to be stuck in, but enjoyable nonetheless. McInerney’s writing is poignant and funny at the same time. I recommend this to anyone who loves contemporary fiction.

 

Uncanny Avengers 2UNCANNY AVENGERS VOL.2: THE APOCALYPSE TWINS, by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna

I almost put Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon here in my top-5 (which is brilliant, by the way), but opted for this book instead. I think the reason this volume really struck me was because the storyline is HUGE. It’s massive and far-reaching with so many implications on the Marvel Universe, and yet it was not marketed as such. Comics have the obscene ability to market the hell out their huge story lines, to the point where the end product never lives up to the expectations of the hype. Here, Remender is doing something big but he’s doing it quietly, and neither he nor Marvel are afraid of making a mess of things. A good mess, that is. Be aware that this storyline continues right into Volume 3 (“Ragnarok”), so the two are not really complete without each other. Check this one out; I have a feeling this will soon be headed into the must-read category of Marvel Comics history.

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2000), by Jonathan Lethem

Motherless Brooklyn

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 7/10

Though not a regular reader of crime fiction, Motherless Brooklyn fits into this category but could also be considered as simply contemporary fiction. As the first of my Jonathan Lethem 3-book reading challenge, it is obvious I’m in for some exciting and fresh new literary characters. Lethem certainly did his research here; the main character suffers from Tourette’s and I’m now much more aware of the difficulties and the complexities of said syndrome. Lionel Essrog has his flaws and is by no means the world’s most likable character, but we can’t help but root for him, which is a sign of a great writer. A good little mystery here too.