New York City because of his unique atmosphere often becomes one of the main characters in the famous novels and movies. Jonathan Lethem also followed the tradition of depicting the city, but his image of New York is rather extraordinary and mysterious.
Chronic City was written by the author in 2009, and this novel became the real sensation in the literary world. It draws the readers’ attention with a variety of supernatural details depicted in it and with the author’s unique satirical tone.
In spite of the fact the author concentrates on describing the events which occur at the territories of the real island of Manhattan, the presentation of these events can be discussed as the mysterious alternative to the reality, and this idea is also emphasized by the symbolic usage of the strange names and metaphorical references to birds.
The figure of the novel’s narrator Chase Insteadman is significant because the readers have the opportunity to focus on the chaotic events depicted in the novel from his viewpoint.
However, can Chase be considered as a reliable narrator? The situations which are given from Chase’s perspective seem to be too unusual, extreme, and without any references to the reality.
Thus, the author of the novel can disorient the readers with Chase’s reaction to the environment, and it is rather difficult to find the elements of the real world among Chase’s perceptions and metaphorical reflections.
That is why it is possible to say that Chase Insteadman is a rather unreliable narrator whose position is too subjective and even provocative.
The atmosphere of unreality which is characteristic for the book is also accentuated by the author’s choice of names. These names are quite strange, and it is possible to concentrate on their satirical meaning.
Thus, the name of Chase Insteadman is too difficult to remember and understand that is why he is even called ‘Chase Unperson’ (Lethem 182). This error is not occasional, and it can emphasize the character’s position as the former star.
Chase’s friend Pincus Tooth is referred to as ‘Pincus Truth’ with indicating some features of his behavior (Lethem 418). Moreover, Chase meets the artist whose name is Laird Noteless, and it is used to attract the readers’ attention to the person’s affairs and status.
That is why these names can metaphorically characterize their owners. The novel is also full of such strange names as Oona Laszlo, Anne Sprillthmar, and Georgina Hawkmanaji. These names are not just presented in the text, but they are also actively discussed by the characters, becoming the significant point in the narrative.
Thus, discussing the name of Stanley Toothbrush, the characters state, “His name is Stanley Toothbrush”. “See, now you’re definitely making fun of me, because that’s idiotic” (Lethem 251).
The names help to the readers to become involved in the unreal atmosphere of the novel with references to the author’s satirical tone.
The next important peculiarity of the novel is a great number of references to birds. These references can be considered as rather symbolical, and their aim is to accentuate the character’s vision of the situation through a new perspective and reflect the characters’ inner feelings and thoughts.
The characters can see a flock of birds through the window and discuss the changes in the world according to the birds’ behavior. These observations are the specific way to reflect the strange and chaotic reality.
The nest draws attention and evokes a lot of considerations about the changes in New York with concentrating on the birds, “Why that number? Why not eight, or fifteen? Do they live together all day and night, or gather only for these missions?” (Lethem 68).
Moreover, the author chooses the images of birds in order to present the figures of the characters with their help. Thus, Oona Laszlo can be discussed as “pale, not so much dressed in black as feathered in it like a wounded bird” (Lethem 114).
And then, “if Oona was a raven, then her armor of irony was all feathers, as delicate, as crucial. Nobody wanted to imagine a bird without feathers” (Lethem 252).
Birds as images are interesting for presenting the characters with references to their feathers as the symbol of the people’s appearance.
Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City is an interesting example of the novel in which reality is so close combined with fantasy that this combination is useful for making the metaphorical accents on the most important points for the author.
Jonathan Lethem’s references to symbolism and satire are represented with the help of using the image of birds and presenting meaningful and strange names.
Lethem, Jonathan. Chronic City. USA: Vintage, 2010. Print.