Thursday, May 24, 2007

Michael Chabon -- a rock star among authors

Yesterday’s post, like many of today’s movies, clearly opened the way for a sequel. There was that enticing reference to Michael Chabon. Michael Chabon?! The guy that won a Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and leveraged his fame into writing comic books. Yeah, that Michael Chabon.

Chabon returned home last night. A native of Columbia, Maryland, he appeared at Washington, D.C.’s venerable Sixth & I Synagogue, which is located at well 6th & I in D.C.’s Northwest quadrant. Chabon’s appearance, sponsored by Politics & Prose, one of my very favorite independent bookstores remember, was to promote his new book The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

No single individual should be as talented (remember that Pulitzer), good-looking, funny and deeply, but oh so matter-of-factly, intelligent as Chabon. We should dislike him. Instead, he received a greeting worthy of a rock star. He spoke to a packed house. I don't want to overstate the size of the audience, but there were hundreds of people there. At the conclusion of his speech-slash-reading the audience sang Happy Birthday to him (he’s young too, turning 44 today) and then mobbed the front of the synagogue as he stepped down to sign books. This was the sort of response D.C. crowds normally reserve for its political bright lights.

Chabon’s program last night was familiar to aficionados of author tours, yet different in significant, but subtle ways. He promised to talk about The Yiddish Policemen's Union, read briefly from it, engage in a Q&A and then sign books. He spoke from prepared remarks that were funny and provoking (and long). It was all about The Yiddish Policemen's Union and yet it wasn’t. The book was not mentioned until the end of his talk, which focused on a small guidebook to speaking Yiddish, Chabon’s loss and subsequent recovery of his Jewish identity and Chabon's loss and subsequent recovery of his appreciation for and determination to write genre fiction.

At its roots The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a detective novel. But, as you would expect from Chabon, it is a detective novel that explores important themes of nationalism and identity. (Yeah, that sets up another sequel, once I read the book.)

Chabon did get around to signing books. The crew from Politics & Prose lost control early as the author’s fans mobbed him, waving copies of Summerland, The Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I brought seven books. He signed them all. He also signed my copy of JSA All Stars 7. Hey, after his performance last night I was ready for him to sign my t-shirt. This author is a rock star.

1 comment:

  1. Hearing all this talk of the new Chabon release makes me a little sad…

    A year ago, I would have been thrilled and no doubt attended his book signing. He’s been my favorite author since I first read his debut novel THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH back in the early 90s.

    But I can no longer support the work of an author who has no regard for the story and characters that put him on the literary map.

    In case you haven’t heard, there’s a film version of MOP coming out later this year… Written and directed by the guy who brought us DODGEBALL, in which he’s CHANGED 85% of Chabon’s original story.

    And the sad part is… Michael Chabon himself APPROVED of the script! WHY would he do this? I can only think of one possible answer: $$

    If you are a Chabon fan, esp MOP, I suggest you do NOT see this movie. You will be sadly disappointed at the COMPLETE removal of the gay character, Arthur Lecomte, and the fabrication of a romantic love triangle between Art Bechstein, Jane Bellwether, and a bi-sexual Cleveland Arning. And really, what is MOP without the presence of Phlox Lombardi? Alas, she’s barely in it.