Friday, December 4, 2009

Chronic City, stoned and slightly disappointing

Any writer under 35 and worth a damn lives in Brooklyn. I'm not saying I caused this phenomenon--though it does give one pause--but because that's just the way it's been for the last five or ten years. I read it in my last issue of Poets & Writers magazine.

So when the most successful bookstore in Brooklyn hosts a reading by the most famous of the Brooklyn literati, I'm in there like swimwear. I read Jonathan Lethem's book "Fortress of Solitude" my first summer in New York and loved it so much I almost jacked it from my housemate when I moved. Lethem's newest book, "Chronic City," is one of the New York Times' Top 10 books of 2009, and I got myself all jazzed up to see him read from it at Book Court tonight. The BF even got there early to get us good seats.

And it started off great. The bookstore lost their microphone stand and had to stick the microphone in a pumpkin. Lethem came on, looking lean and sassy (can guys be sassy or is that only for ladies?), and said we were welcome to come and go as we pleased, that there were lots of good bars in the area and to "keep our options open."

Problem was, that wasn't just a clever way to put the audience at ease. Five minutes into his reading, I was considering those other options. "Chronic City" was just plain dull. He started reading in the middle of the story without any description of what we'd missed in the earlier chapters, so maybe there really is something wonderful and rare about this book, but I was pretty bored. The three characters were smoking a lot of pot. I think that was the problem. If I want to experience smart people getting really, really high and boring each other with big words and metaphysical discussion--well, actually, I wouldn't want to experience that (again). Stoned people do not a story make. The BF and I made our graceful exit after putting in our obligatory half hour, but it was a rather disappointing experience from an author that I know has more talent than that.

Plus I really wanted him to chuck that pumpkin in the audience and he never did. Le sigh...

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