cover image Chicago Loop

Chicago Loop

Paul Theroux. Random House Inc, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40188-9

A parable of particularly male madness, Theroux's forceful, disturbing novel follows to their farthest reaches the compulsions of a successful Chicago real-estate developer who lives in the suburbs with his wife, a model, and their infant son. Parker Jagoda, 37 years old, has a secret life, begun via personal ads, with two young women, one of whom he brutally mutilates and kills. In a fugue state he continues to work, to see the other woman and to arrange with his wife elaborate hotel-room ``dates'' that involve unpredictable role-playing sex games. As he reads newspaper accounts of the search for the killer, dubbed ``Wolfman,'' Jagoda slowly recalls his last encounter with the victim and is filled with a self-absorbed remorse that makes him physically and mentally ill. Abandoning his career and family, he gradually assumes the identity of his victim, disappears into the city and finally ends his life in a powerful, inevitable conclusion. Giving us no history and little information about the rest of his protagonist's life, Theroux focuses tightly on Jagoda's perceptions, describing grim horrors and his character's escalating isolation in simple, Kafkaesque prose. There is no moral to this tale--only the experiences of the journey, and questions raised by Jagoda's initial denial and eventual assumption of culpability. Part of Random House's Literary Landscapes fiction group, this latest by the author of Mosquito Coast and The Great Railway Bazaar maps its interior landscape as immediately as it does its modern urban location. Author tour. (Mar.)