I am officially giving up on Michael Chabon. If I never, ever have to read anything the guy writes ever again, I will be one happy camper.
I didn't want it to be this way. I loved the movie Wonder Boys (although I don't think I ever did get around to reading the book) and people I know and respect keep liking his books, so I keep trying to like him. I've tried several times to make it past the first thirty pages of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I made it all the way through his action adventure historical fiction title Gentlemen of the Road (which he originally wanted to title "Jews with Swords"). I've tried. But they don't do anything for me. And I'm so confused by the very concept of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which seems to be about Judaism but has cover art that signals a Native American theme and which is evidently set in Alaska, that I didn't even bother starting it.
So I was very excited to see that he had a new nonfiction collection out, titled Maps and Legends. At last, I thought. Maybe I'll have a fighting chance of understanding his nonfiction writing. It's a book about writing and reading, so naturally I thought I would find a lot to love in it.*
But, sadly, the Curse of Chabon continues, and I have decided I have to stop trying to read him or I'm going to end up hating him as if I knew him personally. Normally I don't have a problem describing what I don't like about authors, but with Chabon I'm at a loss. Take the opening sentence of his opening essay, titled "Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story":
"Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights."
Now that's okay. That's good, evocative writing, and I'm with him. But the high doesn't last for long. Before I know it, he's on to a paragraph like this one:
"...I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period. Oh, I could decoct a brew of other, more impressive motivations and explanations. I could uncork some stuff about reader response theory, or the Lacanian parole. I could go on about the storytelling impulse and the need to make sense of experience through story. A spritz of Jung might scent the air. I could adduce Kafka's formula: "A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.' I could go down to the cafe at the local mega-bookstore and take some wise words of Abelard or Koestler about the power of literature off a mug. But in the end--here's my point--it would still all boil down to entertainment, and its suave henchman, pleasure. Because when the axe bites the ice, you feel an answering throb of delight all the way from your hands to your shoulders, and the blade tolls like a bell for miles."
What I was going to say was that I get bored of that paragraph in the middle, just like I get bored in the middle of all his paragraphs. But then as I typed it I started to get it, just a little bit. But not enough to like it. So I think this is a case where I am too lazy for the author, and me not liking him is not his fault. I'm sure Chabon'll be able to sleep easier at night, knowing that.
*I don't know what is up with Mr. CR and his willingness to look at nonfiction lately. When I told him this book wasn't for me, he said, "Yeah, I looked at it too, but...seemed like a good concept, but most of it was just really boring."