Michael Chabon (recalling youth in fiction)

I am a growing fan of this American author. His Manhood for Amateurs is a smart, humane, and often very funny non-fiction discussion of what makes for modern maleness (and what we can make of it). He’s best known for his fiction, and here’s the last paragraph — no “spoiler alert” necessary, no details are revealed — of his rather amazing debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which tells of one summer in the life of a recent college grad:

“When I remember that dizzy summer, that dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer, it seems that in those days I ate my lunches, smelled another’s skin, noticed a shade of yellow, even simply sat, with greater lust and hopefulness — and that I lusted with greater faith, hoped with greater abandon. The people I loved were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything.”

(Crape Diem)

BLURT 18: That sort of day: re-reading Shea-bon on the blue bed, wrestling with DFW on the white, sundry forays into half-hearted purpose mainly avoided, semi-conscious caloric binges mostly not. Redeem the day? Or wait for the next?

(BTW, long and narrow-interest piece published below right in On Second Thought, plus a piece of Pittsburgh cited below that. I knew you’d want to know.)


I’m a fan, but I still haven’t read the best known books. His Wonder Boys sold well and was turned into a box office success with Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire at the wheel, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer Prize for Michael Chabon. Yes, and there was The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, too, which won the double-crown of speculative fiction, the Hugo and Nebula awards. My first awareness of him might have come in buying a hardcover version – on clear-out from Books on Beechwood, a great little Ottawa bookstore – of his young adult novel Summerland, which had a superbly whimsical dust jacket to go along with its super-nifty title. (Mini-review: if you like any two of children, baseball, goodness, and fantasy-without-swords-or-dragons, you’ll like Summerland. Three or more? Home run. I went four for four.) Then came what made me a Chabon fan, the marvellous non-fiction of Manhood for Amateurs, but that’s not the subject of this review, either. (Real quick? Men who can read, should. He thinks heartily about many things needful for males. Funny, too.)  He’s good, alright.

I write, though, of Chabon’s first novel, published when he was 24, started before and completed during his M.F.A. tour of writing duty In California.

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