Friday, March 19, 2010

My Amazing Adventures with Michael Chabon

I've been rereading all of my Michael Chabon books recently and am currently (breezily) making my way through "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," his Pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece.

I am pretty crazy about everything that Chabon does and think that he's my favorite contemporary writer. Sorry Nick Hornby, your work is getting stale. Unlike Hornby, Chabon is only becoming more inventive as time goes by and is terribly prolific. I think his most recent work was "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," which takes place in an alternative history where Israel was quickly destroyed following its foundation and America granted Jews a tiny piece of Alaska. It's classic noir, following a detective solving a murder on the eve of reversion back to the US.

Chabon's books (I almost wrote films) have since 2000's Kavalier and Clay become great mixes of genre, blending noirs, history, fantasy, while staying rooted in characters. The internet tells me that his latest is actually "The Final Solution," with "Manhood for Amateurs," a collection of essays, the most recent overall. I can't wait for the latter to come out in paperback, as manhood is often central to his best fiction. His characters frequently are confronting, struggling against, their own sexuality and masculinity. (I believe that in cover of my version of "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," his debut novel and UC-Irvine masters thesis, it says something about Chabon being in a homosexual relationship for some period. He's now married with kids.) I tend to really identify with his characters in this, and perhaps as a result have a real soft spot for "Pittsburgh."

Technically, my first exposure to him was when I saw the film based on his second novel "Wonder Boys," in high school. He has flirted with Hollywood, doing scripts and rewrites but has never had a huge hit, critical or otherwise. Chabon actually wrote a script for Spiderman that never made was supposed to be sweet. "Pittsburgh" has been turned into a film, though based off of the trailer and my reading, it seems like a poor film translation of the work and as such I have yet avoided it. I will see it eventually. Producer Scott Rudin bought the rights for "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" and it is set to be the Coen Brothers' next film or the one after that, which gives me much more hope than "Pittsburgh" did at this stage. Its director previously did "Dodgeball."

Anyway, check him out. Birdcall vouches for him.

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