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Chabon blogs
January 13, 2011 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Michael Chabon is currently blogging about President Obama's Arizona speech, Huck Finn, the return of hip-hop to his life, and his hometown.
posted by AceRock (42 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jeez, isn't he busy enough? (The MacDowell Colony just named him their new chairman.) But long as he's not spreading himself too thin, the world is a better place with more Michael Chabon writing. Thanks for sharing.
posted by jng at 8:58 PM on January 13, 2011


J Dilla shoutout in the hip-hop article. Niiiceee...
posted by jng at 9:00 PM on January 13, 2011


Neat. I was about to start Manhood for Amateurs.
posted by Artw at 9:01 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great stuff. The fact that he took a moment to think about how the architecture of the space might've impacted the crowd response shows a very perceptive eye. Or maybe that's just 'cause I'm working on affect & space theory at the moment…
posted by LMGM at 9:04 PM on January 13, 2011


He's Michael Chabon. Amongst other things he's written the best novels about the early days of the comics industry that ever will be.
posted by Artw at 9:14 PM on January 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. Dude just pulls those kinds of jams out with his cornflakes in the morning. The piece on Obama's speech was the deepest and most human thing I read about it, bar none.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:41 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article about Obama's speech had the same effect Chabon's writing usually has on me - I would sell my neighbor into slavery to be able to write like he does. I just want to read passages out loud to myself....

"Having struggled all the way through to make my own sense of sorrow and confusion congruent with what I saw happening in Tucson...."

The sibilance, the consonance of this line just made me stop and re-read. Damn.

I never was able to get through "Yiddish Policeman's Union," though. Pity.
posted by MShades at 9:41 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


he's written the best novels about the early days of the comics industry that ever will be.

I enjoyed it but pretty much stopped giving a dame once it was clear that Rosa Saks was playing the role of Cipher McCypherson. Chabon doesn't hit me in the teeth, but I know he's pretty important to a bunch of people and well liked there.
posted by The Whelk at 9:50 PM on January 13, 2011


[Comments removed. Google, far more so than any given mefi thread in which you find yourself confused, is a reliable place to ask for more information about someone or something in a non-disruptive fashion.]
posted by cortex at 10:06 PM on January 13, 2011


Lemme see.. college stadium venue, hooting and cheering. I wanted silence, but there you go.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:26 PM on January 13, 2011


I'm glad to read what he has to say about the Obama speech if only to feel some solidarity-- I was left deeply weirded out by the whooping and celebration. I wanted to ask someone, I'm sorry, is this the wrong channel? I meant to watch the memorial speech for six dead people, but I think I ended up at the American Pluck Pep Rally. I get the theme of perseverance through hardship, and the distillation of tragedy into action, really I do-- but there was definitely something tonally off about this event.
posted by threeants at 11:02 PM on January 13, 2011


I guess I think that kind of response is, if naturally hit upon, an appropriate reaction for a normal funeral, attended by the loved ones of the dead-- finding happiness in the sadness as a coping mechanism. It's something they merited through their relationship to the deceased. But as theatre at a huge public event, attended by thousands who probably consider themselves 'stunned', and surely do sympathize-- but come on, really-- it seemed crass.
posted by threeants at 11:06 PM on January 13, 2011


I've loved Chabon for as long as I've been reading him. As a side note, I got into him and DFW at the same time, so some construct in my mind casts them as rivals for whatever reason. No matter.

Anyway, I love what he wrote about Obama's speech, but I've got to agree with Stewart tonight that criticizing the crowd at the memorial service for not adhering to the mood the rest of the country was expecting is a little... off. They said the same things following the Paul Wellstone service.

Emotions tend to run high in these circumstances. These were mostly college kids for whom tragedy struck at their doorstep and they've been living amongst it and discussing the ramifications for the past week. Then they're there in the room with the president, who is saying exactly the right things. The reaction is not shocking, nor is it coarse or rude.

The people in Tucson are in no way obligated to give the rest of us the reactions we wanted from them at a memorial service for their own neighbors. Cut them some slack.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:11 PM on January 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


I never was able to get through "Yiddish Policeman's Union," though. Pity.

Not a pity, really. It's not that good a book. A darned interesting mystery wrapped up in some well-realized alt-history that gets swallowed by WAY TOO MANY WORDS. Seriously, do we really need a three page description of a particularly delicious pastry? Man needs an editor that won't take his shit.

But the blog's nice.
posted by philip-random at 12:06 AM on January 14, 2011


Early on, I decided to make a used-records store on Telegraph Avenue one of the key settings of my novel in progress. Okay, maybe "early on" is an under-exaggeration. Maybe it would be more accurate to say "the entire novel is just a pretext for spending as much time and money as I possibly can in used record stores." (A similar rationale doubtless underlies my projected next novel, the epic Tacos Al Pastor.)
Man, that is endearing, and do I loves me some Chabon.
posted by The Michael The at 4:27 AM on January 14, 2011


The people in Tucson are in no way obligated to give the rest of us the reactions we wanted from them at a memorial service for their own neighbors. Cut them some slack.

You have just crystalized exactly what I felt like saying to Chabon, or to people who are crtitical in a "shouldn't they not have clapped" kind of way. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


philip-random: " It's not that good a book"

I disagree
posted by theredpen at 4:50 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chabon's early book jackets carry my raving blurbs, but he dissected and went all to pieces after "Wonder Boys" and now all we get is the occasional chunk of brilliance floating in the thin soup of his motor-reflex typing. His devotion to genre and popular art is admirable, but he is no John Buchan or Arthur Conan Doyle, but an elite literary novelist who succeeds only as far as he shoots way over the heads of the comic and fan-boy audience. Chabon's adventures stories are miserably dull, and he is perhaps the only author in the world to have written a boring Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His baseball fantasy for children had its wonderful moments, but I can't imagine a real kid bearing the longheurs to reach them. No one could be more sympathetic than I to his wish to hang around used record stores, but that's not Chabon's place in the universe. That's my life. Chabon is not one of us comic-book guys. He's a major writer, and he needs to grow up and start acting like one.
posted by Faze at 4:59 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's a major writer, and he needs to grow up and start acting like one.

Thankfully, Chabon is above catering to the misanthrope; he writes from the point of view of the eager enthusiast, and he doesn't claim to represent the comic book or record store fetishists of the world.

He's got a halfways-serious interest in a whole host of topics, which is why he appeals to those of us who read graphic novels but don't obsess about them, or who own and play the records they love to listen to rather than the first pressings of historic ones.

There are plenty of heavy duty comic book and record shop writers out there; Chabon's a writer who speaks to the "if I didn't have a job and family, I'd love to draw/own a record store" types in society who really just want a glimpse of that fantasy world, rather than the world itself.
posted by dflemingecon at 5:38 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, do we really need a three page description of a particularly delicious pastry?

I don't know -- did Michael Chabon write it?
posted by escabeche at 6:13 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


'I never was able to get through "Yiddish Policeman's Union," though. Pity'

You should have. It was terrific.
posted by judson at 6:28 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, do we really need a three page description of a particularly delicious pastry?

Proust did over 4000 pages on some cookies. Three pages on some flakey baked good doesn't seem like too much.
posted by bonehead at 6:44 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Awesome. But what is going with the bylining there? Ta-Nehisi Coates just invites all these other writers to write his column? It's a little confusing.

And... Yiddish Policemen's Union was one of my favorite novels in the last couple of years if we're still discussing its worth. Quite enjoyable.
posted by kingbenny at 7:26 AM on January 14, 2011


Seriously, do we really need a three page description of a particularly delicious pastry?

i've never read any chabon before, but i am making my way thru infinite jest*† and in eggers' foreword he goes, "There were times, reading a very exhaustive account of a tennis match, say, when I thought, well, okay. I like tennis as much as the next guy, but enough already. And yet the time spent in this book, in this world of language, is absolutely rewarded." he also compares wallace with proust :P

also i thought this was a nice appreciation of obama's tuscon speech.

---
*i'm at endnote 229!
†i'm one of those 'i really like his non-fiction stuff'

posted by kliuless at 7:42 AM on January 14, 2011


Wow, I've read Wonder Boys, Kavelier and Clay, and Policeman's Union and I've never noticed any particularly exhaustive descriptions that made me want to give up.

Ta-Nehisi Coates was too busy writing Chabon's next book to write his column.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:52 AM on January 14, 2011


Seriously, do we really need a three page description of a particularly delicious pastry?

Isn't that kind of the point of writing? Couldn't we say the same thing about any book or passage on some esoteric topic?
posted by thewumpusisdead at 8:10 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Michael Chabon: "And then I was ashamed of my curmudgeonliness."

Good. I would have been too. Your sense of left-out-ness did not matter at that moment, good sir.

Faze: He's a major writer, and he needs to grow up and start acting like one.

I'm not at all sure what the heck you even mean.
posted by blucevalo at 8:48 AM on January 14, 2011


Thanks for these links. I read the one about the Tucson memorial event first, and Chabon perfectly articulated the discomfort (and which so many people dismissed as uptight in the Big Thread about the shooting) that I also strongly felt about the celebratory mood (the cheering, whistling, whooping) of much of the memorial event (as I saw it in its entirety on C-SPAN, --not just the President's speech part that played or was excerpted elsewhere), particularly his second sentence about feeling like something has changed in the cultural norms which I haven't been aware of:
And yet ... Was it all the weird, inappropriate clapping and cheering? Or the realization that I am so out of touch with the national vibe that I didn't know that whistling and whooping and standing ovations are, when someone evokes the memory of murdered innocent people, totally cool?
posted by aught at 8:57 AM on January 14, 2011


Awesome. But what is going with the bylining there? Ta-Nehisi Coates just invites all these other writers to write his column? It's a little confusing.

Not usually. Ta-Nehisi is currently writing a book and taking breaks from the blog to do so. When he does this he has a bunch of guest bloggers.

I understand the reasoning behind it, but it drives me crazy because I go to a blog to read a particular person, not just to have something to read at that URL. That's just me, though.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:06 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The people in Tucson are in no way obligated to give the rest of us the reactions we wanted from them at a memorial service for their own neighbors.

Well, but first, I think a lot of people were simply voicing their surprise and discomfort at the whooping and whistling, not proclaiming that the people in the stadium weren't allowed to do what they want. There is a difference. Second, doesn't this sort of blanket dismissal and condemnation of people who dared voiced their discomfort seem a bit in-club, basically telling people they themselves are not allowed their emotional response and to shut up and go away, if you're not part of the majority you have no say about it?
posted by aught at 9:08 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Proust did over 4000 pages on some cookies. Three pages on some flakey baked good doesn't seem like too much.

Proust wasn't writing a murder mystery. Okay, maybe Chabon wasn't either. Maybe he was just using the genre aspects of his chosen narrative to explore his inner Proust. Except it didn't wash. At least, it didn't for me. I ended up skipping entire pages and never really feeling like I'd missed anything. It felt like the guy had two intentions going into writing the book.

1. write a darned good hard-boiled alt-history mystery (a la Philip K Dick)
2. indulge myself with loving prose explorations of Yiddish culture

Problem is, hard-boiled and loving don't belong in the same sentence let alone the same novel. I'm sure there's some rule about it somewhere. Old Testament maybe?
posted by philip-random at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2011


Chabon's take on Huck Finn is bang on.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Proust wasn't writing a murder mystery. Okay, maybe Chabon wasn't either. Maybe he was just using the genre aspects of his chosen narrative to explore his inner Proust. Except it didn't wash. At least, it didn't for me.I ended up skipping entire pages and never really feeling like I'd missed anything. It felt like the guy had two intentions going into writing the book.

1. write a darned good hard-boiled alt-history mystery (a la Philip K Dick)
2. indulge myself with loving prose explorations of Yiddish culture

Problem is, hard-boiled and loving don't belong in the same sentence let alone the same novel.


Admittedly, I've only read Kavalier & Clay, but one of the things that kept me from getting into it was that I felt like he couldn't decide what sort of book he wanted to write there, either. For my purposes, it ended up as a sort of half-baked mush which was generally agreeable and occasionally quite interesting, but I still don't entirely get why other people liked that book quite as much as they seem to.
posted by Copronymus at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011


Can I say that I loved "Gentlemen of the Road," and that I still need to watch the Obama speech?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2011


Chabon's final guest blog post for TNC
posted by AceRock at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2011


I love Michael Chabon. The charm and lyricism in his writing drive me wild and every subject he writes about seems like it's directly pulled from my "Things That Make billypilgrim Weak In The Knees" file.

The fact that the title to the memorial article seems to be a Bladerunner reference makes me smile.
posted by billypilgrim at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2011


The PBS Newshour youtube of the speech has disabled comments for your viewing pleasure. I was also disconcerted by the hooting and hollering, but I remember being a) a college student and b) at the acceptance speech in Grant Park. Even in a somber moment, it's very exciting to hear a president speak in person.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2011


Can I say that I loved "Gentlemen of the Road,"

Yes! I really enjoyed it too.
posted by aught at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2011


I think I still have "Y.P.U" floating around somewhere, so I'll give it another try when the mood strikes me. I definitely want to pick up "Kavalier & Klay" at some point, as I am a self-confirmed comic book nerd.

My thoughts on the appropriateness/inappropriateness of the memorial service crystallized nicely for me the other day as I was thinking of this:

If you were mourning the loss of a loved one, or a friend, or a neighbor, or someone you knew of and admired, would you really want people who didn't know them, who never knew them, who probably didn't know they existed until they died, telling you "You're doing it wrong"?

No. You probably wouldn't.

Chabon at least has the honesty to sound conflicted in his feelings on the topic, which I can appreciate. He seems to understand that it's not the kind of topic you can - or should - boil down to a binary set of right and wrong. But it's not his place, or ours, to tell the people of Tuscon how to mourn their dead.
posted by MShades at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you were mourning the loss of a loved one, or a friend, or a neighbor, or someone you knew of and admired, would you really want people who didn't know them, who never knew them, who probably didn't know they existed until they died, telling you "You're doing it wrong"? No. You probably wouldn't.

It's struck me that the reason I immediately grokked this point is because this is exactly how I feel about the 9/11 reaction every year. I even used these exact words to describe my feelings to my parents. I spend every September 11th hiding from any radio and television coverage because I want to react to my memories of that day in my own way and based on my own experiences, dammit.

Speaking as someone who didn't get that kind of freedom and grace, let's let the people of Tucson have it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 AM on January 16, 2011


If you were mourning the loss of a loved one, or a friend, or a neighbor, or someone you knew of and admired, would you really want people who didn't know them, who never knew them, who probably didn't know they existed until they died, telling you "You're doing it wrong"?

Actually, since very few of the thousands of people in that stadium actually lost a loved one, or even knew any of those killed or wounded, to me it was more like "How would I feel if I were the relatives of someone who'd just been killed, and a stadium full of strangers were cheering as if the memorial were a sporting event?" My honest answer to myself was, "I would be devastated and probably flee in horror."

That's
why watching all those folks hoot and holler at the memorial freaked me out.
posted by aught at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2011


Actually, since very few of the thousands of people in that stadium actually lost a loved one, or even knew any of those killed or wounded, to me it was more like "How would I feel if I were the relatives of someone who'd just been killed, and a stadium full of strangers were cheering as if the memorial were a sporting event?" My honest answer to myself was, "I would be devastated and probably flee in horror." That's why watching all those folks hoot and holler at the memorial freaked me out.

You can't know how many of the people in that stadium did or didn't know people who died that day.

But it's not just that.

You also can't know how many of those people in that stadium may have just missed being at that shopping center by minutes.
You can't know how many of those people may have been on their way to the event but got stuck in traffic. Or had a sick kid and had to drop out.
You can't know how many of those people may have had a job at that shopping center but had to call in sick.
You can't know how many of those people usually walk to work by that spot but took a different route.
You can't know how many of those people live across the street and had to spend the whole several hours during and after the shooting dodging police, EMTS, panicked bystanders, passersby who kept wanting to ask questions, or newscrews, and then the next several days having to dodge more news crews the day after and the day after and the day after and the day after and...
You can't know what people may have seen, heard, or smelt in the area off camera.

I can respect people wanting to be sensitive to the loved ones of the immediate families of the deceased. But the memorial wasn't just about that -- it was about the Tucson community as a whole, and as I've laid out above, the Tucson community is pretty damn large -- and needs the space to process its own grief.

My honest answer to myself in watching the people of Tucson was, "I've never really had the space to process my own grief over 9/11 without being made to feel like I was being unAmerican. I say that whatever Tucson wants to do, I'm all for it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


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