I wrote the title of this post like it was something that you should be caring about, like Roger and Me or some other kind of activism where I show you things and tell you things with the pictures and you have a genuine emotional response that makes you cringe and smile and cry little baby tears.
I hope that doesn’t happen.
I just finished Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends. I got it for free during McSweeney’s advent sale along with some other things. I didn’t have many expectations for the book; Chabon is one of the literary darlings of the self-aware, slipstream, “call-it-what-it-is” contemporary literature establishment. Most of that last sentence doesn’t mean anything.
I was aware of Chabon much like I am aware of most of the people that are associated with McSweeney’s. I read about them, I read clever little excerpts, and I don’t buy their books. I don’t have a proper reason why I don’t buy the books, really. I just don’t.
But the Christmas deal was way too sweet, and so I started reading Maps and Legends while avoiding work on the finals and papers and whatever that I have been doing over the past couple weeks.
Chabon and I don’t agree on a lot. I don’t think that we agree on much of anything at all, actually. The book comes down on three different themes, really, and they are: fiction for children, short stories, and what creation means to an author. I don’t think that Chabon is doing a great deal of new work in any of these categories.
Chabon says that we need to make things for kids again. We do that. YA literature is probably the fastest growing market, and comic books are in there too, with Mini Marvels and Tiny Titans and any number of kids books doing really, really well. Chabon says that short stories need to get back to their roots of horror-sciencefiction-fantasy-whatever. They are still at those roots. Some of the most successful authors in the contemporary period are using those things to tell stories. Not everything that is published goes into The New Yorker. Those markets still exist. Chabon says that creating is creating is creating. Sure. People write, craft golems, do whatever. They make things and we are complicit in that.
I was just unhappy with the book. Everything seems to come down to Chabon’s anecdotes about his history, about the way he writes, about the way he experienced certain media. And that would be fine, actually, if the bulk of the essays did anything more that summarize. The real shining essays of the book, like the one on The Road and another called “The Other James,” are really just pieces of journalism at their core. Not meat. Not theory or speaking to why these things matter. I don’t even have to read the His Dark Materials books anymore. Chabon basically read them to me.
So I’m wasn’t impressed. I’m not sure what this blog post was actually for.