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Chase Insteadman is a handsome, inoffensive fixture on Manhattan’s social scene, living off his earnings as a child star. Chase owes his current social status 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, and trapped in a vague routine punctuated only by Upper Eastside dinner parties and engagements.
Into Chase’s life 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’ 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. Together Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the Truth – that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought.
Beautiful and tawdry, tragic and forgiving, Lethem’s new novel is as always, utterly unique.
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