It seems like a defiantly optimistic thing to do these days, when all anyone can talk about is the decline of the printed form.It seems like it should be that kind of gesture, but it never crossed my mind that it was an expression of defiance. If it's taken as that, that's great. I did it for the pleasure. It didn't have to do anything with my career or the Internet or the publishing world. It was just to be handling the books. I worked in used-book stores for 15 years on and off. That was the only work I ever had before becoming a full-time writer. I have a lot of osmotic book knowledge just from handling books I didn't ever read. Turning them over in my hands, trying to figure out where they came from and why they exist and whether they should be priced at $4 or $6.
Chase Insteadman, a handsome, inoffensive fixture on Manhattan’s social scene, lives off residuals earned as a child star on a beloved sitcom called Martyr & Pesty. Chase owes his current social cachet to an ongoing tragedy much covered in the tabloids: His teenage sweetheart and fiancée, Janice Trumbull, is trapped by a layer of low-orbit mines on the International Space Station, from which she sends him rapturous and heartbreaking love letters. Like Janice, Chase is adrift, she in Earth’s stratosphere, he in a vague routine punctuated by Upper East Side dinner parties.
Into Chase’s cloistered city 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. Perkus’s countercultural savvy and voracious paranoia draw Chase into another Manhattan, where questions of what is real, what is fake, and who is complicit take on a life-shattering urgency. Along with Oona Laszlo, a self-loathing ghostwriter, and Richard Abneg, a hero of the Tompkins Square Park riot now working as a fixer for the billionaire mayor, Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the answers to several mysteries that seem to offer that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought: Truth.
Like Manhattan itself, Jonathan Lethem’s masterpiece is beautiful and tawdry, tragic and forgiving, devastating and antic, a stand-in for the whole world and a place utterly unique.