New Books (August-September)


Featuring: Kate Atkinson, Lea Carpenter, Michael Chabon, Gerrard Cowan, Seth Dickinson, Eric Jay Dolin, K. A. Doore, Gardner Dozois, Sergiy Dyachenko, Maryna Shyrshova-Dyachenko, Robert Galbraith, Christopher Goffard, Anne Griffin, Brian Hart, Maria Hummel, Joe Ide, Jill Lepore, David Mack, Peter McLean, Kelsey Miller, Richard Morgan, Ian S. Port, David Priess, Christopher Priest, Philip Pullman, Steven Savile, Jeremy C. Shipp, Erin Somers, Gerry Spence

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New Books (June-July)


Featuring: Bradley Beaulieu, Darcey Bell, Morgan Grant Buchanan, Michael Chabon, Bill Clegg, Paul Cornell, Claudia Christian, Mason Cross, Allen Eskens, Alice Hoffman, Chris Holm, Bill James, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Antonio Garcia Martinez, Stephen Metcalfe, Liesa Mignogna, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Alexandra Oliva, Laurie Penny, Andy Remic, Michael J. Sullivan, Heather Skyler, Melinda Snodgrass, Gav Thorpe, Paul Vidich, Chuck Wendig, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Kai Ashanti Wilson, Tom Wolfe, Joakim Zander, Rob Ziegler

Above artwork: Roche Limit: Monadic #4 (crop), by Kyle Charles (Image Comics) Continue reading

Upcoming: MOONGLOW by Michael Chabon (Harper)

ChabonM-MoonglowUSMichael Chabon‘s highly-anticipated next novel, Moonglow, is due out in November! Chabon’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of the best novels ever written, in my humble opinion. I didn’t love Telegraph Avenue, but I did enjoy Wonder Boys. This new novel sounds pretty interesting. Here’s the synopsis for Moonglow:

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon. 

Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact — and the creative power — of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.

From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of “the American Century,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

“Wonder Boys” by Michael Chabon (Harper Collins / Random House / Open Road)

Chabon-WonderBoysA University Professor’s Crippling Writer’s Block and Drug-Fuelled Self-Destruction

Grady Tripp is a pot-smoking middle aged novelist who has stalled on a 2611-page opus titled Wonder Boys. His student James Leer is a troubled young writer obsessed by Hollywood suicides and at work on his own first novel. Grady’s bizarre editor Terry Crabtree and another student, Hannah Green, come together in his wildly comic, moving, and finally profound search for an ending to his book and a purpose to his life.

This is the second of Michael Chabon’s novels that I’ve read – and in a very short time, too. I still have no idea how to review The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which may rank as one of my all-time favourite novels. (Needless to say, it’s not difficult for me to see why it won the Pulitzer Prize.) Wonder Boys, the novel Chabon wrote before Kavalier & Clay, is a rather different novel. It’s nowhere near as long, for one thing – and yet, strangely, it feels far more rambling and unfocused. I enjoyed it a great deal, and zipped through it in just a couple of days. Chabon has a wonderful way with words that can make even the mundane a pleasure to read about.

The main character is almost archetypical, struggling author with writer’s block. Wonder Boys is basically the story of his long-time spiral of self-destruction coming to a head. Over the course of a single weekend, his wife leaves him, his affair takes a shocking turn, lots of people realise that he’s a nightmare and kind of feckless. He also has to attempt to keep his rather predatory editor away from one of his potentially-suicidal students. Along the way, there is a dead dog, one of Marilyn Monroe’s jackets, a shoot-out in an alley, and also a massive dead snake. And some Korean Jews. And a heavy amount of drug consumption.

Chabon-WonderBoysORI haven’t read much literary fiction (or whatever genre this is meant to be in), but there are some tropes that are popping up. They seem to be predictable in their unpredictability. Strange things happen. People do really weird things (see, for example, the bacchanal in The Secret History). They react in slightly melodramatic ways. And yet… there is a way that Chabon writes these little weirdnesses that feels very natural. Realistic, and not actually forced or jarring.

Without walking through the whole plot, it’s tricky to know what to write for this review. I am not aiming for a review in the style of the New Yorker, The New Republic, or Harper’s, so I’m not going to attempt to deconstruct this in any intellectual or academic manner. That’s not what the blog is for. What I will say, though, is that if you’re after a slightly strange, well-written novel about a writing professor at a small Ohio University going crazy, then this is for you. It’s witty, engaging, rather addictive, and very quirky.

Author Wisdom: Michael Chabon

This quotation was passed on to me by Alyssa, who found it on Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog, and which originated on a New York Review of Books piece Chabon wrote on Janury 31 2013 (the piece is about Wes Anderson’s movies):

“The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research ‘childhood.’

“There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises ‘adolescence.’ The feeling haunts people all their lives.”