It’s a timely setup in this age of disasters beyond parody, and Levin homes in hilariously on the lame official response ... one of those sweeping, polyphonic, absurdist epic novels like they used to make, though to me Levin most closely resembles his fellow Chicagoan Stanley Elkin. Like Elkin, he has a boisterous yet mournful sensibility, nihilism backed with vaudeville shtick; like Elkin, he has a gift for the riff and the digression, the labyrinthine shaggy-dog joke that roves and ranges until you’ve almost forgotten the setup ... Unlike Elkin, Levin doesn’t always know when enough is enough. There is a strong Infinite Jest energy here, which, while often brilliant, can verge on a 'Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson doing cocaine together' sort of vibe ... There’s no doubt that Levin’s a gifted wit and a master of repartee, but even with the finest comedians, at a certain point the orchestra starts playing and someone backstage is looking for the curtain hook ... Despite its occasionally exasperating self-indulgence, Mount Chicago has passages of real charm and brilliance ... In the closing sections, when Apter and Gladman finally meet, the author achieves a sustained, operatic balance of comedy, grief and despair that is worth the wait. It’s a genuinely breathtaking achievement and brought tears to my eyes. Those last hundred pages showed me the kind of novel this talented author is truly capable of.
These, plus a half dozen friends, lovers, and hangers-on are slammed into one another to evoke this novel’s sprawling, yet bizarrely tunnel-vision universe...The author, Adam Levin, also inserts offstage commentary, so as to make sure his dumb readers know what they’re reading is fiction, or lies, as he likes to call them...One would think that a catastrophic event—referred to sometimes as the 'terrestrial anomaly' or 11/17, after the day it occurred in 2021—might lend the story some weight...But it comes off as a mere plot point or inciting incident (in creative writing-speak)...Emotionally, it feels like the kind of fantasy a child might come up with: what if everyone who loved me was wiped off the face of the earth?...What would I do?...Who would love me then?...The answer, in this case, is an annoying little bird named after a great Russian writer...After wandering through the self-loathing wilderness of these pages for over a week, when Gladman finally straps on his suicide mask and has highlights from his miserable life flash before his eyes, it is sweet relief for this reader as well.
... massive, meandering, meta ... Levin’s extravagant off-the-trackness also encompasses the mayor’s vision for turning the gigantic cone of wreckage into a memorial called Mount Chicago and an immersion in an avian-ruled Kingdom of Chicago involving a duck-centered variation on the tale of Moses. If only this novel’s too-muchness didn’t threaten to capsize Levin’s bravura dramatization of grief and the paradoxes of storytelling, his incandescent passages of philosophical inquiry, arresting insight, pathos, and hilarity.