Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday--What I'm reading


"Manhood for Amateurs" by Michael Chabon. I've been following Chabon's writings ever since I read "The Mysterys of Pittsburgh" and found a character in it named LeComte -- complete with the same spelling. Well, wonder where he got the name? Chabon was one of a host of young novelists in the 1980s who scored large advances for their works, because they spoke to a new generation of readers -- Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, Jay McInerney, Kristin McCloy, Donna Tartt, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen, etc. Spy magazine published a tongue-in-cheek Cliff's Notes for "Bright Lights, Big City," "Slaves of New York" and "Less Than Zero," along with a couple of other novels those writers published. Interestingly, in the back, they singled out "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" as not belonging to the same genre of young, hip, malaise-ridden fiction because its characters and writing were too good.

I've read most of what he's written, including "Wonder Boys," one of my favorite novels of the 1990s, and "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay," one of my favorite books of this decade. I still haven't read "Summerland," his children's novel about baseball, or "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," but I did read this collection of essays focusing on his family and his own childhood. We're almost the same age (he's about four years younger), and we have nearly the same number of kids (he has four, I have three). His kids are into "Doctor Who"; two of my children like the show, particularly my youngest. So I get just about all his pop-culture references, including the television series of "Planet of the Apes" and old-fashioned Lego. Still, the essays in this book, many of which were written for a magazine, feel oddly truncated, as if the confines of the number of words he was required to write made him hurry up and finish without going deeper into his subject matter. For example, when he writes about the death of David Foster Wallace, he discusses his own's wife's problems with bipolar disorder, but the essay ends before he really plays that theme out. Yes, kids aren't left alone enough. Yes, your life changes when you have kids. But I kept wanting more out of each essay.

Reading now:

"All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well": The long-titled Tod Wodicka novel, so far, is an enjoyable look at a medieval-times re-enactor and his dealing with the loss of his wife and the animosity his children seem to have for him, the roots of which are so far a mystery.

"Confederacy of Dunces": Still sticking to it on audiobook in my car. I'm beginning to identify a little too closely with Ignatius. Not a good thing.

1 comment:

J. Kaye said...

I think it's neat to have a character with your name. Hopefully it's a good