Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Mount Chicago, by Adam Levin: One of the Funniest Novels I've Ever Read

I have some questions for you, Mr. Levin. You're a very good writer. You KNOW you're a very good writer. You're also a very self-aware writer. So when you're as good a writer as you are, and you fully understand what you're doing and its effect on your reader as well as you do, why do you insist on aggravating your reader just to the point where he wants to throw your novel across the goddamn room? Why? Why why why why why? 

Is it because it helps the other 90 percent of the novel, which is truly a marvel, stand out in even more stark relief? Is it because you're just a prankster? Do you just like keeping your readers on their toes, making sure they're paying attention? Or is it because you truly like to inflict a small measure of pain on people?

It doesn't matter. I'll still read every damn word you ever write if the remaining words you write in your career are even one-third as f#%king incredible as the good 90 percent of Mount Chicago

To my readers, most of whom I've probably already lost: Mount Chicago is one of the funniest novels I've ever read. That's the first time I've ever bolded a sentence in a review. Because that's really the one thing you need to know about this book. And when you consider it's sort of kind of tangentially about a massive tragedy that kills thousands of people, that's a pretty neat trick. And that's not the only trick. There's no line between author and novel here. As the kids say, so meta. Except maybe there is a line? Who knows? I'm not smart enough to try to figure that out. And I don't think Adam Levin wants you try. 

To describe it further, and I fully realize this is an absolutely ridiculous analogy, and I have no doubt Adam Levin would hate this, but this is my small measure of payback for making me read pages and pages about behavioral psychology and parrots and that really, really long duck (yes, duck) joke: Mount Chicago is what would happen if Kurt Vonnegut on speed, a baked and giggly Philip Roth (can you imagine?!), and David Foster Wallace on...well, no, just normal DFW...had a book baby. 

I can't find the passage or the interview now, and maybe I'm imagining this but, I think DFW said something really smart once about reader aggravation: That a good novel must have parts that aggravate the reader, but a good novelist knows just the right amount to antagonize his reader before he can pull back just in time, and entertain again. And so if you think about it, this novel's 575 pages, so 90 percent (again, my approximation for the non-purposefully-aggravating parts) of 575 is 517.5 INCREDIBLE pages. I like those odds. You probably skim over - whether on purpose or because you drift - 10 percent of every novel you read anyway, right?!

All right, so anyway: I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. You don't need to know what it's about, you can read that anywhere. But whatever you read that it's about, it's actually about Entourage (the HBO show) and metafiction and Chicago politics and psychology and cryptocurrency and other get-rich-quick-scams and the author's face and stand-up comedy and writing and depression and tragedy and love and coming-of-age and parrots. 



  1. I'm about half-way through this right now and I love it so much. In fact, I've taken my unread copy of his massive first novel, The Instructions, off the shelf and put it in the queue.

  2. I have 100 pages to go and I’m still waiting for the good part.