Maps and Legends, Michael Chabon

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Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, Michael Chabon, McSweeney’s, 2008, ISBN 978-1932416893, 222pp.

Pulitzer-prize winning Michael Chabon speaks to me and for me in this book of essays on writing. Chabon believes that fiction, specifically short fiction, has lost its power because of the limitations placed upon it by critics and other literary types, who turn up their noses at anything that smells like genre, unless it’s written by an author who has an uncommon style. Direct prose that uses plot as much as character is anathema to these people, to which Chabon says, “get over it.” Chabon, an unabashed fan of genre work (science fiction, fantasy, comics), provides a needed counterpoint to the New Yorker style where nothing ever happens in a story.

Other essays in this slim volume cover some of Chabon’s influences. I especially enjoyed his memoir of Will Eisner as well as the critical commentary on one of my favorite comics, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!┬áBut even the essays on things I was more unfamiliar with, such as the use of the golem and Yiddish, were fascinating. Chabon’s easy style and obvious enthusiasm for his subjects help make this volume fly by. In the end, you really do want more–although if it takes Chabon away from his fiction writing, perhaps we are better off with just this little bit.

[Finished 6 October 2008]

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