Chicago Loop

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Paul Theroux has written many thoughtful and provocative books, but none that has delved into the tortured mind of an individual who is driven to commit a brutal sexual crime. CHICAGO LOOP is a shocking sojourn in the world of Parker Jagoda during the summer of 1988. It is a very hot summer in Chicago, and in extreme heat there is no telling what craziness will occur. Jagoda is presented as a man who has it made. He is an architect by training, but he has become a real-estate developer and is doing extremely well. His wife, Barbara, was a high-fashion model before she took time off to have a baby. This is a well-educated and imaginative couple who, seemingly, have found the correct balance for their lives.

Something, though, is definitely wrong with Parker Jagoda. Theroux never makes it quite clear why he steps out of his well-tailored life. It has to be assumed that there is something just below the surface of the character that has found its way into the light. Jagoda places personal advertisements in the newspaper. This leads to a new life outside his family and the Chicago suburbs. Theroux has touched on such characters before. The author is very adept at creating individuals who are more than they seem to be. In CHICAGO LOOP, Theroux has created a man whose duality leads him to murder. One of the women he meets from the personal ads triggers a violent outburst which results in her murder. The newspaper refers to the murderer as the “Wolfman.” Jagoda believes that she was asking for it. For a time, he is able to block out what he did, but soon everything around him seems to remind him of his brutal act. Jagoda decides that he must be punished for his crime.

CHICAGO LOOP is more than mere character study. Since motive is not directly presented, Theroux must be looking to hit a larger target. This is very depressing commentary on contemporary life. Crimes seem to happen without conventional causes. CHICAGO LOOP is a thriller, a satire, and a psychological study of an individual who has become detached from rational behavior.