There’s a recent interview with Michael Chabon (the recent target of Ruth Frank’s condescension) online at the Onion AV Club.
I still haven’t read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, but I did pick up one of his earlier books, The Final Solution, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in 1944. Actually, it just barely merits the title of “book”–it’s a novella, well under 38,000 words.
It is worth reading, though not as mind-blowing as Kavalier and Clay. Two things bothered me a little: Chabon was very coy about using Holmes’ name (in fact, he never does) while making it unambiguously clear that the aged-detective-turned-Sussex-beekeeper in question is Holmes. I can’t figure out any reason, literary or otherwise, why this made sense and it got annoying after a while. The other involved a parrot (a major character in the story) and the scenes from the parrot’s point of view. The parrot was totally anthropomorphized, thinking just like a human being, and this put me off from the story. In my mind’s eye, I wasn’t seeing a parrot but a man in a parrot suit, which made for a different sort of impact.
Still, it’s an intriguing little mystery set against the background of bigger harder-to-solve mysteries. Some of these deeper mysteries are horrible, like the Holocaust deliberately echoed in the novella’s title, and some aren’t, like the bonds between people and other people, between people and bees, between people and parrots (or people in parrot suits). I did enjoy it.
If I sound a little tepid in my recommendation of the book it may be a function of sticker-shock: this slim oversized paperback was $12.95 (US). I won’t bore you with the tales of my youth, when one could run down to the bookstore or maybe just a drugstore and pick up a new paperback for sixty cents, and when indulging in new writers and new genres and literary classics and what-have-you was considerably easier than it is today, because that would be unconscionable waste of the few fleeting moments I have before my ungrateful great-grandchildren come to haul me away to the Old Person’s Repurposing Center they’ve been talking about. I will say that it would have been welcome if the publisher and Chabon had rounded out the book with two or three more stories, perhaps with different genre spins.
They salve their abraded consciences by including 13 pages of magazine style fluff: a profile in which Chabon is described as “handsome, brilliant and successful” (at which point I began to hate him), and a list of his top ten “genre” writers (scare-quotes from the source). This list reconciled me to Chabon again: it includes Raymond Chandler, Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Leiber and Leigh Brackett, all of whom I rank pretty high as well.