“I once heard Perkus Tooth say that he’d woken that morning having dreamed an enigmatic sentence: ‘Paranoia is a flower in the brain.’ Perkus offered this, then smirked and bugged his eyes–the ordinary eye, and the other. I played at amazement (I was amazed, anyway, at the fact that Perkus dreamed sentences to begin with). Yet I hadn’t understood what the words meant to him until now, when I knew for a crucial instant that the birds had been directed to deceive me. That was when I saw the brain’s flower. Perkus had, I think, been trying to prepare me for how beautiful it was.”
Chase Insteadman made his bones as a child star on a family style syndicated sitcom called Martyr & Pesty. No longer a social climber, he has finally reached the summit of self-centeredness. Chase maintains his hard-earned status on the Manhattan social scene by living off of residuals from the show he acted on a babyface ago and stumbling through life itching to get back to work in his tailored suit. If he is not constantly reminded by the public of how cute he was as Zoom on that 70’s sitcom, he is reminded of how compassionate they are for the uncertainty he is facing with his fiancé Janice Trumbull. Janice is Chase’s fiancé and has been with him since they were teenage amateurs in the game of love. Her intergalactic evaporation has made Chase a sympathetic figure across the world because of the intense focus from the infringing media landscape and its power of promoting popular delusions and inciting the madness of crowds. What ‘they’ don’t realize is that what once was love can be altered after the involvement of a singular moment when grieving is no longer a process but controlling a deep down untoward emotion becomes the name of the game. This may be his greatest role yet and it couldn’t of happened at a worse time.
Perkus Tooth is a reclusive, crazy-eyed, rock critic, broadsider, and liner note writer who while under the influence of intense levels of tetrahydrocannabinol cannabis he often goes on uninhibited tangents that often cover topics that typically are left under the rug for fear of being admitted to. Perkus doesn’t need further motivation to let his thoughts fly, but with his own feeling of disassociation from his species and his unoriginal, fear-mongering, market-savvy drug dealer Watt Foster at his beck and call, Perkus maintains a dangerous paranoia while highly inebriated to help curb his mind idling cluster headaches. Often quick to point out the high-functioning autistic’s in the critical media, Perkus’s preoccupation with his search for freedom through Brando, Mailer and chaldrons in conjunction with his finite tastes when it comes to strictly black tar coffee as lifeblood and a particular greasy spoon hamburger as a means to instant satisfaction and long-term satiation suggests he may be the proverbial pot.
“Perkus held to one ethos above all, a standard drawn from early drug episodes, Ecstasy, mescaline, one memorable day a silver tray heaped full of psilocybin-mushroom tea sandwiches, crusts trimmed by a friend steeped in WASP manners, as with companions he experienced side-by-side plunging in and out of brief dazzling revelation, while others lurched into bad trips, negative worlds, needing to be retrieved: don’t rupture another’s illusion unless you’re positive the alternative you offer is more worthwhile than that from which you’re wrenching them. Interrogate your solipsism: Does it offer any better a home than the delusions you’re reaching to shatter?”
Chase seemed to be parachuted in like an artisanal adrenaline junkie with St. Sebastian like accuracy at a Super Bowl 50 yard line into Perkus Tooth’s eighty-fourth street apartment’s exclusive world. To be involved with Perkus meant a level of concern was going to become realized whether you liked it or not. You also had to be content with playing the role of a sounding board in a one-sided conversation centering on deconstructing the universe, but there was something about Perkus that made Chase feel a sense of possession that made everything that came with Perkus justifiable. In animalistic terms they were each others ‘pair bond’ in their search for a figure of freedom and a meaning to their shared world before their existential crises manifested into reality.
No longer a slave to old rituals and luxuries could not have been made more apparent then the vacancy of his eighty-fourth street rent free sublet apartment. A free man, of sorts, he has now become a slave to a more appropriate social convention in the form of a three-legged, hiccuping, apartment owning pit bull terrier named Ava. The authentic place that you once loved had become a giant cesspool of fakery, the person you once aspired to be had become a current simulation in order to play a role to get what you want in a world you could never have anticipated. Synthetic and real people in a synthetic and real world, where unannounced to you, but not out of scope, there are still power’s pulling the strings. Touching the untouchable forced a change, a sense of gravitas as Perkus avoided interpretations into the minutiae of things and just lived; while still maintaining a death clutch on his trusted large cup of Joe. For Perkus, he and coffee will always have unfinished business, but perhaps he will finally embrace the imbalance of the world.
“What had I missed? My shame took its place in a vast backdrop of shames-oxygen-starved astronauts, war-exiled orphans, dwindling and displaced species-against which I puttered through daily life, attending parties and combating hangovers, recording voiceovers and granting interviews to obscure fan sites, drinking coffee and smoking joints with Perkus, and making contact with real feeling unpredictably and at random, at funeral receptions, under rain-sheeted doorways.”
You can definitely see similarities between Lethem and Pynchon with the whole inner-city quest for the meaning of life and finding it in something hidden or unexplainable, the uniquely coined characters, inescapable paranoia, New York being a central character of its own and its illusory presence to the primary characters, and not to mention its verbose narrative. With books like these I often wonder why the author writes with a style that leaves the transmitter or the receiver of information spinning in a vortex from the message center, leaving the ability in decoding of any sort of mumbo-jumbo information lost upon arrival. As a receiver I don’t know if I should put in the effort to hold on with all my strength and determination, or just let go and let it be known that it’s on you bruh. Chronic City plays to a lot of people’s interests: New York being one that is widely exploited but one that resembles a labyrinth, coffee and mara-jew-ana cigarettes, odd characters with even stranger currencies, a massive tiger on the loose destroying the city, nesting birds terrorizing people in their buildings, a chocolate smelling Manhattan, an apartment complex for animals and a writer with extreme talent. As a reader you are willing to endure the lacking of plot to receive a pleasure of sorts, an imagination that knows no bounds and a level of intelligence that is exhibited from the first to the last word. It still doesn’t change the fact that you lost me bruh and you left me hanging, that’s not cool man.
“Richard hovered over Georgina, leering like a villain. “Look,” he said, as he ran his hand over the astonishing contour that began at her long ribs and narrow waist, to the jut of her wide hip, his hand less than an inch from the fabric of her dress. Georgina slept on, languid breath rippling her upper lip. “Such an amazing shape. How can anyone ever sit in a meeting, or make a plan, or add up a column of fucking numbers, when there’s a shape like that somewhere out there, a shape like that with your name on it, coming to get you? Where did it come from?” Richard didn’t have to say what we were all thinking, that the curve of the Hawkman’s bottom made us think of the chaldron, that we’d hopelessly muddled the lust for one with lust for the other. If we indeed were a kind of gestalt entity, Perkus the perennially overwrought brain, myself the trite glamorous face, then I suppose Richard Abneg was our raging erection.”