Michael Chabon has got to be my most disappointing author. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was, in fact, amazing, and I immediately wanted more. I wanted to devour him the way I devoured George Elliot and Thomas Hardy and John Irving and, more recently, Haruki Murakami. I wanted to read everything and love it all. And nothing else has ever been good. Most of it has been terrible. This collection of his essays, culled from Esquire and wherever else he's published, comes closer to giving me what I want from him than anything else, but I'm still incredibly disappointed.
He is on the verge of perfection all the time. He introduces his subject (in the case of these essays always something about being a man- a father, a husband, a lover, an ex-son-in-law), and starts talking about it like he's really going to talk about it, and just when he's really getting to the good stuff, the heart of the matter, the pain or frustration or grace or beauty, he loses it. He chickens out and abruptly finishes. It's like he's afraid of being overly sentimental, so he glibly makes light of the whole story and says "and that's just how it is." Just at the point where I'd say the introduction is over and it's time for the body, he says the body is over and it's time for the conclusion.
I used to think his problem was just the wit and style and other such annoyingness, that his pretension was what got in the way of his having any substance. It's more clear in these personal essays that those irritating habits of his are not merely for the sake of "dazzling" (which I'm sure is a word he's been praised with in numerous reviews), but to distance himself from the reader when he's afraid of getting too vulnerable.
I'm about two-thirds of the way through, but I doubt anything will change by the end. So far this has been the formula. Before this book I was beginning to think he just had one great novel in him and would be resting on those laurels for the rest of his life, but now I do think he's got more in him, and I even have faith he'll find a way to express it eventually. I'm not holding my breath- it's the sort of thing that often doesn't come until old age. But maybe I can hurry the process along by assaulting him at A Cuppa' Tea (he is my neighbor and I do know where he hangs out)and pointing out the folly of his ways?
He makes me miss David Foster Wallace.
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Jun 11, 2010
Jun 15, 2010 11:04 PM UTC
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