Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Michael Chabon

Among the books I read recently are several by Michael Chabon. Here are some brief notes.

Maps and Legends

This collection of non-fiction pieces is really a showcase for Chabon's vocabulary. If you are looking for lots of examples of purple prose in one manuscript, this is the book for you. Some of these pieces are enjoyable--if overwritten--but others left me cold. I have little interest in comic books, and so I skimmed those essays quickly. I would recommend this book for hardcore Chabon fans only or for those who want to improve their vocabulary.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

As I just said, I have no interest in comic books, so you might wonder why I would read a fictionalized account of the rise of the comic book in America. Good question. I have no idea what the answer is. So, yeah, this is a story about the comic book in the US of A. Despite the subject matter, the book is quite engaging and very well-written. It probably deserves the Pulitzer Prize that it won. While it might not be Chabon's finest novel, it is right up there. The ending made sense too. It is 646 pages, but it didn't feel like it.

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection

I really looked forward to reading this compact novella about Sherlock Holmes, though he is not mentioned by name in the book. I was not blown away. That's not to say that this is not a good and worthwhile read. The story is deceptively simple, and one that ends without the perfect Holmesian deduction; yet, there is something elegant in the writing and the ending, where it is left to the reader to divine the answers.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

In my growing list of worst books I have ever read, I will add this piece of garbage. It's perplexing that this novel ever found a publisher. The protagonist is a boring sexually-confused chap who seems to cry a lot. His father is a gangster. The story is dumb. There are sections when the writer slips out of the first-person narrative into an implausible omnipotent first person narration. In other words, he becomes a mind reader. And then there are the little irritating things like tides on Lake Erie.

If you want to read Chabon, skip this one and stick go for Wonder Boys or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, or maybe even the book that follows.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I am not really sure that I am qualified to comment on this book. There is so much Jewish lore that I do not understand, and I think I missed some of the subtleties of the plot because of that. I hated the first 120 pages and, looking back, I feel that my distaste for this book was a reaction to just having just read Chabon's abysmal first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I was still angry that such a piece of trash was ever published.

TYPU needs an edit. There are digressions that serve absolutely no purpose at all, and make the novel longer than it needs to be. I could give you examples, but I won't. It's a good and interesting book. It's nice to see that Chabon has improved as a writer since his first stinker was published in '89.

This is soon to be a Coen Brothers movie. I would like to see it when it comes out a couple of years down the road.

Wonder Boys
I saw this film ages ago, when I had no idea who Mr. Chabon was. I loved this movie. I still love this movie. Normally, I would never read a book if I have already seen a film adaptation, but I made an exception in this case. I have a nagging feeling that the movie is better. I can't believe I wrote that line, because I have never felt that way before. The book is always better. The book is supposed to be better. Of course, this means that I will have to see the film again to see if I am right about this.

1 comment:

mister anchovy said...

I liked the Amazing Adventures...