I started reading Jonathan Letham back in the 1990s when he came out with Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, both of which I greatly enjoyed. Then something turned me off, I have no idea what, and he dropped off my radar.
But here he is back with a novel reminding me of a cross between himself, Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon, maybe even a bit of Thomas Pynchon as shown in Vineland or Inherent Vice. I don’t know but he’s definitely drawn me back into his circle.
The Feral Detective
by Jonathan Lethem
2018 / 287 pages
read by Zoisa Manmet 8h 23m
rating: 7.75 / contemp/fiction – crime novel?
Phoebe Siegler, our 1st person narrator, is 30-something, single, well educated and well to do, but she feels completely lost after Trump’s election. So she quits her job at the New York Times and travels to Los Angeles. Her mission is to find her friend’s daughter, Arabella, who seems to have disappeared into the California desert.
Hiring a strange older guy named Charles Heist who technically knows the desert well and the people who populate it but doesn’t quite share how well or the two of them are kind of lost together although he knows the area well and even grew up there – he’s the feral one for fairly good reason.
After a trip to a mountain Zen retreat where they come across a murder, they travel to the desert where they encounter the two feuding tribes, the Bears who are rather Hell’s Angels types, and the Rabbits who are basically arch-feminist.
I suppose it’s a literary thriller of sorts – the thing which really ruined it for me was the narrator’s gravelly voice. And I kept comparing it to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.