Surrealpolitik: Chronic City

Author: Jonathan Lethem

London: Faber and Faber (2010)

Quick Summary

In Lethem's Manhattan there's a tiger that nobody sees but who destroys buildings; a weird gray fog over the financial district that hasn't lifted in a very, very long time; a substantial number of people who have become entranced by a thing called a chaldron, a weird sort of chalice-like object that is available on eBay on auctions that can never be won; and a protagonist whose girlfriend is trapped in space and he secretly can't even remember anything about her.


There are 6 quotes currently associated with this book.

I felt my interior map expand to allow for the reality of this place, the corridor floor’s lumpy checkerboard mosaic, the cloying citrus of the superintendent’s disinfectant oil, the bank of dented brass mailboxes, and the keening of a dog from behind an upstairs door, alerted to the buzzer and my scuffling bootheels. I have trouble believing anything exists until I know it bodily. (page 9)
Tags: [Surrealism, Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic]
"I realize this sounds weird, but Biller lives in the air space behind Perkus's kitchen...part of the time, at least." (page 123)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
Then came the weird pervasive chocolate smell that floated like a cloud over Manhattan. At first you thought it was local, you'd passed an unseen bakery, smelled something wafting, chocolate-sweet, stirring cravings and memories both. You'd scan the area, find nothing, continue on, but the smell was with you everywhere, with you in your apartment, too, though the windows were tight. On the street again, you'd see other glancing up, sniffing air, bemused. And soon confirming: yes, they smelled the same thing...Someone said the mayor had already given a statement, enigmatically terse, maybe hiding something. The chocolate cloud tugged Manhattan's mind in two directs, recalling inevitably the gray fog that had descended or some said been unleashed on the lower part of the island, two or three years ago, and that had yet to release its doomy grip on that zone. Theories floated in the sweetened breeze, yet no investigation could pin a source for the odor. (page 205-206)
Tags: [Surrealism, Surrealism & Politics, Literary/Poetic]
"There's a chocolate smell everywhere in the city right now. Has been for days. You must have noticed."

"Oh, that," he said, smirking unhappily. "I guess I have heard it described that way, but no, I don't smell any chocolate. For me it's coming in more as kind of high-pitched whining sound."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just what I said, Chase. For you it's a chocolate smell, for me, a ringing in my ears. On and off for three days now. Can we just forget about it, please? It kept me up practically all night last night." (page 210)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
For my own part, I couldn't have said whether she was the waitress we always had here or I'd never seen her before. The invisible are always so resolutely invisible, until you see them. (page 211)
Tags: [Surrealism, Truth & Real, Lead Quote Candidate, Literary/Poetic]
What the children revealed now, that no image could ever reproduce, was its sublime and superb thingliness (again this word came unbidden). Perks had been merciful, I now saw, leaving me to ascend here in solitude, to permit me first contact unmediated. I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to share. Like Georgina, I fought an urge to shed my clothes.

Time, among other things, was destroyed. I don't know how long I sagged there, feeling the cool plaster through the shoulders of my suit, a Saint Sebastian in continuous ecstatic surrender to the one ubiquitous and unceasing arrow of the chaldron streaming toward me from above....In the chaldron's holistic force I also saw that Perkus's apparently schizophrenic inquiries all led to the same place, whether I could follow them or not. They sprang from the certainty that a thing as splendid as the chaldron could be hidden, hogged, privatized by the mayor and other overlords. This theft in turn described the basic condition of Manhattan and the universe. Whatever Perkus mourned or beckoned from the brink of vanishing -- Morrison Groom and his fabulous ruined films, Brando, the polar bear and Norman Mailer, ellipsis, every thwarted gasp of freedom -- all were here, sealed for safekeeping, and at the same time so healthy their promise grinned from the container. (page 333-334)
Tags: [Surrealism, Surrealism & Politics, Literary/Poetic, Madness]