Michael Chabon Likes Genre Fiction, Punts on Endorsing It

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

In a recent NYT interview of Michael Chabon for the Book section, the following exchange took place:

You can suggest three books to a literary snob who believes genre fiction has no merit. What’s on the list?

“The Turn of the Screw.” “Heart of Darkness.” “Blood Meridian.”

Let’s see: a literary ghost story, a literary adventure story, and a literary Western. I guess his point is that even acclaimed literary writers have written genre-influenced works. OK, sure, that’s a valid point. But Chabon’s answer is still a cop-out b/c the Literary Snob can retort, “Well, yes, in the hands of master prose stylists perhaps these genre conventions are worthwhile, but otherwise they’re safely ignored.” To be fair, Chabon does namecheck Ian Fleming, Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and Sherlock Holmes, so that’s something.

Anyone familiar with Chabon’s novels? If so, what did you think? I gave The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a whirl once but I made it all of 50 pages in before ditching it out of boredom. A friend says it took her three shots to get interested but she ended up loving it. Maybe it’s time to give it another try.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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5 Responses to Michael Chabon Likes Genre Fiction, Punts on Endorsing It

  1. Sir Barken Hyena says:

    I’m mystified by the classification of Heart of Darkness as genre fiction. But then I didn’t finish college.


    • Blowhard, Esq. says:

      Because he gets in a boat and goes into the jungle and it takes place in Africa? So, like, adventure and shit?

      What’s the genre fiction equivalent of HoD? I’d say “Tarzan.”


  2. The Power says:

    Ha ha. Blood Meridian is about as genre as a breaching humpback is a seagull. (Seagull to whale: wtf, dude, get back in the water. Louis L’Amour to Cormac McCarthy: here’s a quarter, kid, go buy some punctuation.)

    As for Chabon, I’ve read three of his novels: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys, and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

    I enjoyed K&C, especially all the stuff about the early days of the comic book business. I’ve been thinking about rereading it myself. But if you’ve tried three times without success, I don’t know that you’d be missing much by not reading it. My general rule is three tries and out. Like with Vineland–I started that thing three times, but those goddamn Northern California hippies just didn’t do it for me.

    So because I enjoyed K&C, I read Wonder Boys. I remember nothing about it, except that Michael Douglas did his whole downtrodden handsome thing in the movie.

    Then I didn’t read any Chabon for a long time.

    Then I had a long plane ride, so I bought YPU. I finished it, but ultimately its blend of literary-ness and hardboiled-ness wasn’t for me.

    That was four years ago, and since then I’ve not read any Chabon.


    • Blowhard, Esq. says:

      Yeah, I’ve been reading “Blood Meridian” and you’re right. I hope to post a review in the next couple of weeks.


      • Callowman says:

        “Blood Meridian” isn’t genre fiction, but it’s great. Love the judge. The jacket copy on mine calls the language “Miltonian”, which seems right to me.


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