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Michael Chabon

Recently I've read and thoroughly enjoyed two of Michael Chabon's recent projects, enough so to merit some mention here. The first is his essay collection Maps and Legends, in which he simultaneously celebrates "genre" writing (detective stories, fantasy, comics etc.) while also arguing - quite persuasively - against its ghettoization, insisting that good genre writing is every bit as literary as so-called "literary fiction" and deserves just as much serious attention from the cognoscenti without being dismissed offhand as mere "kid's stuff". From everything I've heard, Chabon's own fiction writing, particularly The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, is both a testament to his belief in this argument as well as compelling evidence of its validity. But Maps and Legends isn't just a pro-genre diatribe - instead, he devotes entire chapters to profiling some of his favorite genre artists, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Philip Pullman, Ben Katchor (one of my very favorites, as well), Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kirby and the like.

Incidentally, I was first drawn to Maps and Legends by its wonderful design (which I raved about earlier). I haven't previously read much Chabon and probably wouldn't have even glanced through this at the store had the design not been so enticing - but I picked it up, read through his wonderful chapter on Sherlock Holmes (a lifelong love of mine) and decided I absolutely had to have the book even though I rarely buy new, full-priced hardcovers. But I did buy it, though I probably wouldn't have done so without that great cover. Publishers, take note.

The second project is Michael Chabon Presents The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist, Vol. 1, which is more Chabon-curated than Chabon-written, as Chabon and a host of writers and artists expand on the fictional comic strip The Escapist (from Kavalier & Clay). The contributors very cleverly build a mythos around the strip and pretend it has existed off and on since the 1940s - presenting not only an as-if series of the strip's various incarnations from past decades, but also its checkered publication history as it moved from its "creators" Joe Kavalier & Sammy Clay to a series of publishers both respected and shady. Overall, this is a very well-executed work of derivative art.

December 7, 2008 in Books | Permalink


"Kavalier & Clay" is wonderful, but an often missed Chabon book is "Summerland". I discovered it by accident because though it is classified as a YA novel, it had been mis-shelved at the library in the adult section. It is a very enjoyable fantasy involving baseball and fairies, and definitely appropriate for adults, too.

Posted by: mc at Dec 7, 2008 2:22:47 PM

I love love LOVE Chabon--hands down my favorite author. He's also the coolest writer working today.

Posted by: Brandon at Dec 11, 2008 11:33:39 PM