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Michael Chabon

Chabon at a book signing in 2006.
Born May 24, 1963 (1963-05-24) (age 46)
Washington, D.C.
Pen name Leon Chaim Bach, Malachi B. Cohen, August Van Zorn
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter, columnist, short-story writer
Nationality American
Period 1987–present
Notable work(s) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007)
Notable award(s) 1999 O. Henry Award
2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2007 Nebula Award for Best Novel
2008 Hugo Award for Best Novel
2008 Sidewise Award for Alternate History
Spouse(s) Lollie Groth
Ayelet Waldman

Michael Chabon (pronounced /ˈʃeɪbɒn/ SHAY-bon;[4] born May 24, 1963) is an American author and "one of the most celebrated writers of his generation", according to The Virginia Quarterly Review.[5] Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), was published when he was 25 and catapulted him to literary celebrity. He followed it with a second novel, Wonder Boys (1995), and two short-story collections. In 2000, Chabon published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a critically acclaimed novel that John Leonard, in a 2007 review of a later novel, called Chabon's magnum opus;[6] it received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 (see: 2001 in literature). His novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union, an alternate history mystery novel, was published in 2007 to enthusiastic reviews and won the Hugo, Sidewise, and Nebula awards;[7][8][9] his serialized novel Gentlemen of the Road appeared in book form in the fall of that same year.

His work is characterized by complex language, the frequent use of metaphor[10] along with recurring themes, including nostalgia,[10] divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and issues of Jewish identity.[6] He often includes gay, bisexual, and Jewish characters in his work.[6][11] Since the late 1990s, Chabon has written in an increasingly diverse series of styles for varied outlets; he is a notable defender of the merits of genre fiction and plot-driven fiction, and, along with novels, he has published screenplays, children's books, comics, and newspaper serials.


Early years

Michael Chabon (pronounced, in his words, "Shea as in Shea Stadium, Bon as in Bon Jovi", i.e., /ˈʃeɪbɒn/) was born in Washington, D.C. to Robert Chabon, a physician and lawyer, and Sharon Chabon, a lawyer, a Jewish family. Chabon said he knew he wanted to be a writer when, at the age of ten, he wrote his first short story for a class assignment. Featuring Sherlock Holmes, the story received an A, and Chabon recalled, "I thought to myself, 'That's it. That's what I want to do. I can do this.' And I never had any second thoughts or doubts."[12] Referring to popular culture, he wrote of being raised "on a hearty diet of crap".[13] His parents divorced when Chabon was 11, and he grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Columbia, Maryland. Columbia, where Chabon lived nine months of the year with his mother, was "a progressive planned living community in which racial, economic, and religious diversity were actively fostered."[10] He has written of his mother's marijuana use, recalling her "sometime around 1977 or so, sitting in the front seat of her friend Kathy’s car, passing a little metal pipe back and forth before we went in to see a movie."[14]

Chabon attended Carnegie Mellon University for a year before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1984.[10] He then went to graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.

Initial literary success

Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was written as his UC-Irvine master's thesis. Without telling Chabon, his professor, Donald Heiney (better known by his pen name, MacDonald Harris), sent it to a literary agent,[15] who got the author an impressive $155,000 advance on the novel (most first-time novelists receive advances ranging from $5,000 to $7,500.)[16] The Mysteries of Pittsburgh appeared in 1988 and became a bestseller, instantly catapulting Chabon to the status of literary celebrity.

Chabon was ambivalent about his newfound fame. He turned down offers to appear in a Gap ad and to be featured as one of People's "50 Most Beautiful People."[17] (He later said, of the People offer, "I don't give a shit [about it] ... I only take pride in things I've actually done myself. To be praised for something like that is just weird. It just felt like somebody calling and saying, 'We want to put you in a magazine because the weather's so nice where you live' ")[11]

In 2001, Chabon reflected on the success of his first novel by saying that while "the upside was that I was published and I got a readership[, the] downside ... was that, emotionally, this stuff started happening and I was still like, 'Wait a minute, is my thesis done yet?' It took me a few years to catch up."[11] In 1991, Chabon published A Model World, a collection of short stories, many of which had been published previously in The New Yorker.

Struggles with second novel

After the success of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Chabon spent five years working on a second novel. Called Fountain City, the novel was a "highly ambitious opus ... about an architect building a perfect baseball park in Florida",[18] and it eventually ballooned to 1,500 pages, with no end in sight.[12] The process was frustrating for Chabon, who, in his words, "never felt like I was conceptually on steady ground."[18]

At one point, Chabon submitted a 672-page draft to his agent and editor, who disliked the work. Chabon had problems dropping the novel, though. "It was really scary", he said later. "I'd already signed a contract and been paid all this money. And then I'd gotten a divorce and half the money was already with my ex-wife. My instincts were telling me, This book is fucked. Just drop it. But I didn't, because I thought, What if I have to give the money back?"[19] "I used to go down to my office and fantasize about all the books I could write instead."

When he finally decided to abandon Fountain City, Chabon recalls staring at his blank computer for hours, before suddenly picturing "a 'straitlaced, troubled young man with a tendency toward melodrama' trying to end it all."[12] He began writing, and within a couple of days, had written 50 pages of what would become his second novel, Wonder Boys. Chabon drew on his experiences with Fountain City for the character of Grady Tripp, a frustrated novelist who has spent years working on an immense fourth novel. The author wrote Wonder Boys in a dizzy seven-month streak, without telling his agent or publisher he'd abandoned Fountain City. The book, published in 1995, was a commercial and critical success.

Kavalier & Clay

Among the supporters of Wonder Boys was The Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley; however, despite declaring Chabon "the young star of American letters", Yardley argued that, in his works to that point, Chabon had been preoccupied "with fictional explorations of his own ... It is time for him to move on, to break away from the first person and explore larger worlds."[20] Chabon later said that he took Yardley's criticism to heart, explaining, "It chimed with my own thoughts. I had bigger ambitions."[21] In 1999 he published his second collection of short stories, Werewolves in their Youth, which included his first published foray into genre fiction,[5] the grim horror story "In the Black Mill."

Shortly after completing Wonder Boys, Chabon discovered a box of comic books from his childhood; a reawakened interest in comics, coupled with memories of the "lore" his Brooklyn-born father had told him about "the middle years of the twentieth century in America....the radio shows, politicians, movies, music, and athletes, and so forth, of that era," inspired him to begin work on a new novel.[22] In 2000, he published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, an epic historical novel that charts 16 years in the lives of Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier, two Jewish cousins who create a wildly popular series of comic books in the early 1940s, the years leading up to the entry of the U.S. into World War II. The novel received "nearly unanimous praise" and became a New York Times Best Seller,[10] eventually winning the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Chabon reflected that, in writing Kavalier & Clay, "I discovered strengths I had hoped that I possessed — the ability to pull off multiple points of view, historical settings, the passage of years — but which had never been tested before."[23]

Recent work

In 2002, Chabon published Summerland, a fantasy novel written for younger readers that received mixed reviews but sold extremely well,[24] and won the 2003 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Two years later, he published The Final Solution, a novella about an investigation led by an unknown old man, whom the reader can guess to be Sherlock Holmes, during the final years of World War II. His Dark Horse Comics project The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, a quarterly anthology series that was published from 2004 to 2006, purported to cull stories from an involved, fictitious 60-year history of the Escapist character created by the protagonists of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It was awarded the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Anthology and a pair of Harvey Awards for Best Anthology and Best New Series.

In late 2006, Chabon completed work on Gentlemen of the Road, a 15-part serialized novel that ran in The New York Times Magazine from January 28 to May 6, 2007. The serial (which at one point had the working title "Jews with Swords") was described by Chabon as "a swashbuckling adventure story set around the year 1000."[25] Just before Gentlemen of the Road completed its run, the author published his latest novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which he had worked on since February 2002. A hard-boiled detective story that imagines an alternate history in which Israel collapsed in 1948 and European Jews settled in Alaska, the novel was launched on May 1, 2007 to enthusiastic reviews,[26] and spent six weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.[27] The novel also won the 2008 Hugo Award.

In May 2007, Chabon said that he was working on a young-adult novel with "some fantastic content".[28] A month later, the author said he had put plans for the young-adult book on hold,[29] and instead had signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins, with his first book-length work of non-fiction to be published in spring 2009; the work will "discuss being a man in all its complexity — a son, a father, a husband."[30] Chabon's second book under the contract, with a tentative publication date of 2011, will be a contemporary adult novel set in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. During a 2007 interview with the Washington Post, Chabon was quoted as saying, "I would like it to be set in the present day and feel right now the urge to do something more mainstream than my recent work has been." During a Q&A session in January 2009, Chabon added that he was writing a "naturalistic" novel about two families in Berkeley.[31]

McSweeney's published Maps and Legends, a collection of Chabon's literary essays, on May 1, 2008.[32] Proceeds from the book benefited 826 National.[33] In 2009 (2010 in Europe), Chabon published his second collection of essays and non-fiction, this time the manhood themed Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. This collection was warmly received, and in March 2010 was announced as a nominee for the 2010 Northern California Book Awards in the Creative Nonfiction category. The winners of the awards will be anounced on April 18, 2010 at the San Francisco Public Library.[34]

Read more:

Despite his success, Chabon continues to perceive himself as a "failure", noting that "anyone who has ever received a bad review knows how it outlasts, by decades, the memory of a favorable word."[35]

Personal life

In 1987, Chabon married the poet Lollie Groth. After the publication of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, he was mistakenly featured in a Newsweek article on up-and-coming gay writers (Pittsburgh's protagonist has liaisons with people of both sexes.) The New York Times later reported that "in some ways, [Chabon] was happy" for the magazine's error, and quoted him as saying, "I feel very lucky about all of that. It really opened up a new readership to me, and a very loyal one."[17] In a 2002 interview, Chabon added, "if Mysteries of Pittsburgh is about anything in terms of human sexuality and identity, it's that people can't be put into categories all that easily."[36] In "On The Mysteries of Pittsburgh", an essay he wrote for the New York Review of Books in 2005, Chabon remarked on the autobiographical events that helped inspire his first novel: "I had slept with one man whom I loved, and learned to love another man so much that it would never have occurred to me to want to sleep with him."[37]

According to Chabon, the popularity of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh had adverse effects; he later explained, "I was married at the time to someone else who was also a struggling writer, and the success created a gross imbalance in our careers, which was problematic."[11] He and Groth divorced in 1991, and he married the writer Ayelet Waldman in 1993. They currently live together in Berkeley, California with their four children,[38] Sophie (b. 1994), Ezekiel "Zeke" Napoleon Waldman (b. 1997), Ida-Rose (b. June 1, 2001), and Abraham Wolf Waldman (b. March 31, 2003). Chabon has said that the "creative freeflow" he has with Waldman inspired the relationship between Sammy Clay and Rosa Saks towards the end of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,[22] and in 2007, Entertainment Weekly declared the couple "a famous — and famously in love — writing pair, like Nick and Nora Charles with word processors and not so much booze."[28]

In 2000, Chabon told The New York Times that he kept a strict schedule, writing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday.[17] He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, "There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they're big, and they have a lot of words in them.... The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life."[11]

Interest in genre fiction

In a 2002 essay, Chabon decried the state of modern short fiction (including his own), saying that, with rare exceptions, it consisted solely of "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story."[39] In an apparent reaction against these "plotless [stories] sparkling with epiphanic dew", Chabon's post-2000 work has been marked by an increased interest in genre fiction and plot. While The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was, like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys, an essentially realistic, contemporary novel (whose plot happened to revolve around comic-book superheroes), Chabon's subsequent works — such as The Final Solution, his dabbling with comic-book writing, and the "swashbuckling adventure" of Gentlemen of the Road — have been almost exclusively devoted to mixing aspects of genre and literary fiction. Perhaps the most notable example of this is The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which won five genre awards, including the Hugo award and Nebula award.[15] Chabon seeks to "annihilate" not the genres themselves, but the bias against certain genres of fiction such as fantasy, science fiction and romance.[15]

Chabon's forays into genre fiction have met with mixed critical reaction. One science fiction short story by Chabon, "The Martian Agent," was described by a reviewer as "enough to send readers back into the cold but reliable arms of The New Yorker."[40] Another critic wrote of the same story that it was "richly plotted, action-packed," and that "Chabon skilfully elaborates his world and draws not just on the steampunk worlds of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Michael Moorcock, but on alternate histories by brilliant SF mavericks such as Avram Davidson and Howard Waldrop. The imperial politics are craftily resonant and the story keeps us hanging on."[41] While The Village Voice called The Final Solution "an ingenious, fully imagined work, an expert piece of literary ventriloquism, and a mash note to the beloved boys' tales of Chabon's youth",[42] The Boston Globe wrote, "[T]he genre of the comic book is an anemic vein for novelists to mine, lest they squander their brilliance,"[43] and The New York Times added that the detective story, "a genre that is by its nature so constrained, so untransgressive, seems unlikely to appeal to the real writer."[40]

In 2005, Chabon argued against the idea that genre fiction and entertaining fiction should not appeal to "the real writer", saying that the common perception is that "Entertainment ... means junk.... [But] maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted — indeed, we have helped to articulate — such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment.... I'd like to believe that, because I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period."[44]

One of the more positive responses to Chabon's brand of "trickster literature" appeared in Time magazine, whose Lev Grossman wrote that "This is literature in mid-transformation .... the highbrow and the lowbrow, once kept chastely separate, are now hooking up, [and] you can almost see the future of literature coming."[45] Grossman classed Chabon with a movement of authors similarly eager to blend literary and popular writing, including Jonathan Lethem (with whom Chabon is friends),[5] Margaret Atwood, and Susanna Clarke.

On the other hand, in Slate in 2007, Ruth Franklin said, "Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it."[46]


The Van Zorn persona

For some of his own genre work, Chabon has forged an unusual horror/fantasy fiction persona under the name of August Van Zorn. More elaborately developed than a pseudonym, August Van Zorn is purported to be a pen name for one Albert Vetch (1899–1963).[47] In Chabon's 1995 novel Wonder Boys, narrator Grady Tripp writes that he grew up in the same hotel as Vetch, who worked as an English professor at the (nonexistent) Coxley College and wrote hundreds of pulp stories that were "in the gothic mode, after the manner of Lovecraft ... but written in a dry, ironic, at times almost whimsical idiom."[47] A horror-themed short story titled "In the Black Mill" was published in Playboy in June 1997 and reprinted in Chabon's 1999 story collection Werewolves in Their Youth, and was attributed to Van Zorn.[48]

Chabon has created a comprehensive bibliography[49] for Van Zorn, along with an equally fictional literary scholar devoted to his oeuvre named Leon Chaim Bach.[50] Bach's now-defunct website[51] (which existed under the auspices of Chabon's) declared Van Zorn to be, "without question, the greatest unknown horror writer of the twentieth century," and mentioned that Bach had once edited a collection of short stories by Van Zorn titled The Abominations of Plunkettsburg.[52] (The name "Leon Chaim Bach" is an anagram of "Michael Chabon," as is "Malachi B. Cohen," the name of a fictional comics expert who wrote occasional essays about the Escapist for the character's Dark Horse Comic series.) In 2004, Chabon established the August Van Zorn Prize, "awarded to the short story that most faithfully and disturbingly embodies the tradition of the weird short story as practiced by Edgar Allan Poe and his literary descendants, among them August Van Zorn."[5] The first recipient of the prize was Jason Roberts, whose winning story, "7C", was then included in McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, edited by Chabon.[50]

A scene in the film adaptation of Chabon's novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh shows two characters in a bookstore stocking August Van Zorn books.

The Chabon universe

Chabon has provided several subtle hints throughout his work that the stories he tells take place in a shared fictional universe. One recurring character, who is mentioned in three of Chabon's books but never actually appears, is Eli Drinkwater, a fictional catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who died abruptly after crashing his car on Mt. Nebo Road.[53] The most detailed exposition of Drinkwater's life appears in Chabon's 1990 short story "Smoke," which is set at Drinkwater's funeral, and refers to him as "a scholarly catcher, a redoubtable batsman, and a kind, affectionate person."[53] Drinkwater was again referred to (though not by name) in Chabon's 1995 novel Wonder Boys, in which narrator Grady Tripp explains that his sportswriter friend Happy Blackmore was hired "to ghost the autobiography of a catcher, a rising star who played for Pittsburgh and hit the sort of home runs that linger in the memory for years."[54] Tripp explains that Blackmore turned in an inadequate draft, his book contract was cancelled, and the catcher died shortly afterwards, "leaving nothing in Happy's notorious 'files' but the fragments and scribblings of a ghost."[54] In Chabon's children's book Summerland (2002), it is suggested that Blackmore was eventually able to find a publisher for the biography; the character Jennifer T. mentions that she has read a book called Eli Drinkwater: A Life in Baseball, written by Happy Blackmore.[55] Drinkwater's name may have been selected in homage to contemporary author John Crowley, whom Chabon is on the record as admiring. Crowley's novel Little, Big featured a main character named Alice Drinkwater.

There are also instances in which character surnames reappear from story to story. Cleveland Arning, a character in Chabon's 1988 debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, is described as having come from a wealthy family,[56] one that might be expected to be able to endow a building. Near the end of Wonder Boys (1995), it is mentioned that, on the unnamed college campus at which Grady Tripp teaches, there is a building called Arning Hall "where the English faculty kept office hours."[57] Similarly, in Chabon’s 1989 short story "A Model World," a character named Levine discovers, or rather plagiarizes, a formula for "nephokinesis" (or cloud control) that wins him respect and prominence in the meteorological field.[58] In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), a passing reference is made to the "massive Levine School of Applied Meteorology," ostensibly a building owned by New York University.[59]

Experiences with Hollywood

Although Michael Chabon has described his attitude toward Hollywood as "pre-emptive cynicism,"[16] for years the author has nevertheless engaged in sustained, and often fruitless, efforts to bring both adapted and original projects to the screen. In 1994, Chabon pitched a screenplay entitled The Gentleman Host to producer Scott Rudin, a romantic comedy "about old Jewish folks on a third-rate cruise ship out of Miami".[19] Rudin bought the project and developed it with Chabon, but it was never filmed, partly due to the release of the similarly themed film Out to Sea in 1997. In the nineties, Chabon also pitched story ideas for both the X-Men[60] and the Fantastic Four[61] movies, but was rejected.

When Scott Rudin was adapting Wonder Boys for the screen, the author declined an offer to write the screenplay, saying he was too busy writing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.[16] Directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Michael Douglas, Wonder Boys was released in 2000 to critical acclaim. Having bought the film rights to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Rudin then asked Chabon to work on that film's screenplay. Although Chabon spent 16 months in 2001 and 2002 working on the novel's film adaptation, the project has been mired in pre-production for years.

Chabon's work, however, remains popular in Hollywood, with Rudin purchasing the film rights to The Yiddish Policemen's Union in 2002, five years before the book would be published. The same year, Miramax bought the rights to Summerland and Tales of Mystery and Imagination (a planned collection of eight genre short stories that Chabon has not yet written), each of which was optioned for a sum in the mid-six figures.[62] Chabon also wrote a draft for 2004's Spider-Man 2, about a third of which was used in the final film. Soon after Spider-Man 2 was released, director Sam Raimi mentioned that he hoped to hire Chabon to work on the film's sequel, "if I can get him,"[63], but Chabon never worked on Spider-Man 3.

In October 2004, it was announced that Chabon was at work writing Disney's Snow and the Seven, a live-action martial arts retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be directed by master Hong Kong fight choreographer and director Yuen Wo Ping.[64] In August 2006, Chabon said that he had been replaced on Snow, sarcastically explaining that the producers wanted to go in "more of a fun direction."[65]

Although Chabon is uninvolved with the project, director Rawson Marshall Thurber shot a film adaptation of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh in fall 2006.[66] The film, which stars Sienna Miller and Peter Sarsgaard, was released in April 2008. In February 2008, Scott Rudin reported that a film adaptation of The Yiddish Policemen's Union was in pre-production, to be written and directed by the Coen brothers.[67][68]

In April 2009, Chabon confirmed he had been hired to do revisions to the script for Disney's John Carter of Mars.[69]



Young-adult fiction

Short story collections

Essay collections

As contributor or editor


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Chabon, Michael (July 2006). "It Changed My Life". Archived from the original on July 20, 2006. Retrieved November 7, 2007. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Patricia (April 29, 2007). "The Frozen Chosen". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d Henderson, Eleanor (2007). "From Pittsburgh to Sitka: On Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union". The Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 2007): 248–257. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Leonard, John (June 14, 2007). "Meshuga Alaska" (First paragraph only free online). The New York Review of Books 54 (10). Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  7. ^ "2008 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. World Science Fiction Society. c. 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Winners and Finalists". Sidewise Awards for Alternate History. Uchronia. Undated. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  9. ^ "2008 Nebula Awards". The Nebula Awards. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Undated. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Chabon, Michael – Introduction". Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 149. Gale Cengage, 2002. 2006. Retrieved on July 3, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e Binelli, Mark (September 27, 2001). "The Amazing Story of the Comic-Book Nerd who Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction". Rolling Stone (878): 58–62, 78. 
  12. ^ a b c Cahill, Bryon (April 1, 2005). "Michael Chabon: a writer with many faces. "... at the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business."" (Online archive of original publication: Cahill, Bryon. "Michael Chabon: a writer with many faces". Writing 27 (6): 16–19. Weekly Reader Corp.). The Free Library. Farlex Inc.. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  13. ^ Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son, by Michael Chabon, Fourth Estate, 2009. p. 76.
  14. ^ Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son, by Michael Chabon, Fourth Estate, 2009, p. 32.
  15. ^ a b c Spanberg, Erik (November 30, 2004). "Able to leap over literary barriers in a single book: Chabon ranges from Kabbalah to Captain Nemo". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c Gottlieb, Jeff (June 30, 2002). "Adventures in Rewriting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c Buzbee, Lewis (September 24, 2000). "Michael Chabon: Comics Came First" (Google cache page). The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b Tobias, Scott (November 22, 2000). "An Interview with Michael Chabon" (Archived at McSweeney's Internet Tendency— The Onion. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Giles, Jeff (April 10, 1995). "He's a Real Boy Wonder". Newsweek: p. 76. 
  20. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (March 19, 1995). "The Paper Chase". The Washington Post Book World (The Washington Post): p. 3. 
  21. ^ Weich, Dave (2000). "Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures". Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  22. ^ a b Buchwald, Laura (2000). "A Conversation with Michael Chabon". Bold Type. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Interview with Michael Chabon". Fall/Winter 2000 (Vol. 1, Issue 1). Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  24. ^ Timberg, Scott (May 1, 2007). "The idea hit him right in the kishkes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  25. ^ Lengel, Kerry (October 4, 2006). "Author mines Jewish history". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  26. ^ "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". Metacritic. CBS Interactive, Inc.. c. 2009. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. July 1, 2007. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  28. ^ a b Kirschling, Gregory (May 4, 2007). "The New Adventures of Michael Chabon". (Entertainment Weekly).,,20037742,00.html. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  29. ^ Raymond, Nate (June 5, 2007). "More Details on Non-fiction Book". The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  30. ^ Thornton, Matthew (June 1, 2007). "Chabon Signs Again with HC". PW Daily. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  31. ^ Raymond, Nate (Undated). "Current Projects: Untitled Bay Area Novel". The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  32. ^ "Maps and Legends (Hardcover)" (Product listing). c. 2009. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  33. ^ "Michael Chabon's new book benefits 826 National!". 826 National. May 20, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son, by Michael Chabon, Fourth Estate, 2009. p. 7
  36. ^ Bugg, Sean (March 14, 2002). "Blurring the Lines: Interview with Michael Chabon". Metro Weekly. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  37. ^ Chabon, Michael (June 9, 2005). "On 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh'". The New York Review of Books 52 (10): 43. 
  38. ^ Ybarra, Michael J. (October 5, 2003). "Taking on the law". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  39. ^ Chabon, Michael (2002). "The Editor’s Notebook: A Confidential Chat with the Editor". in Chabon, Michael. McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. New York: Vintage. p. 6. ISBN 1-4000-3339-X. 
  40. ^ a b Friedell, Deborah (November 14, 2004). "'The Final Solution': Bird of the Baskervilles" (book review). The New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  41. ^ Quinn, Paul (October 19, 2003). "On the trail of a genre high" (book review, reprint hosted at The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  42. ^ Conn, Andrew Lewis (November 9, 2004). "What Up, Holmes? Michael Chabon and the world's most famous detective" (book review). The Village Voice.,conn,58257,10.html. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  43. ^ Jensen, Kurt (December 26, 2004). "Chabon's wartime 'Solution' is murder most bland" (book review). The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  44. ^ Chabon, Michael. "Introduction." The Best American Short Stories 2005. Ed. Michael Chabon. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
  45. ^ Grossman, Lev (December 17, 2004). "Pop Goes the Literature". Time.,9171,1009722,00.html. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  46. ^ Franklin, Ruth (May 8, 2007). "God's Frozen People: Michael Chabon carves out a Jewish state in Alaska". Slate. Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive Co.. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  47. ^ a b Chabon (1995). p. 3.
  48. ^ Gorra, Michael (January 31, 1999). "Endangered Species". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  49. ^ Chabon, Michael. "Works of August Van Zorn". at the Internet Archive. Archived from the original on April 4, 2003. Retrieved July 1, 2009. 
  50. ^ a b "The August Van Zorn Prize for the Weird Short Story". McSweeney's Internet Tendency. McSweeney's. Undated. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  51. ^ Chabon, Michael. "Van Zorn website". at the Internet Archive. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003. Retrieved July 1, 2009. 
  52. ^ Chabon, Michael. "About Abominations". Archived from the original on February 5, 2003. Retrieved July 1, 2009. 
  53. ^ a b Chabon (1991). pp. 91–103.
  54. ^ a b Chabon (1995), p. 296.
  55. ^ Chabon, Michael (2002). Summerland. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-1615-5.  p. 397.
  56. ^ Chabon, Michael (1988). The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-07632-7.  p. 114.
  57. ^ Chabon (1995). p. 325.
  58. ^ Chabon (1991). p. 72-73.
  59. ^ Chabon, Michael (2000). The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. New York: Picador USA. ISBN 0-312-28299-0.  p. 228.
  60. ^ Chabon, Michael (March 2005). "An Account of a Brief Bout of Mutant Madness". Archived from the original on April 4, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  61. ^ Chabon, Michael (July 2005). "Maybe Not So Much with the Fantastic". Archived from the original on February 6, 2006. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  62. ^ Fleming, Michael (March 26, 2002). "Pollack shapes Chabon's 'Clay': Author also ready to wag 'Tales' tomes". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  63. ^ Davis, Dave (October 19, 2004). "Interview: Sam Raim & Rob Tappert (The Grudge)". Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  64. ^ Kit, Borys (October 29, 2004). "Disney, Chabon retelling 'Snow'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 18, 2007. 
  65. ^ Raymond, Nate (August 26, 2006). ""Jews with Swords" Are Coming". The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  66. ^ Vancheri, Barbara (August 11, 2006). "Film Notes: 'Mysteries of Pittsburgh' will film here next month". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 6, 2006. 
  67. ^ Purcell, Andrew (February 8, 2008). "Scott Rudin is on a roll". The Guardian.,,2253970,00.html. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  68. ^ Fleming, Michael (February 11, 2008). "Coens speak 'Yiddish' for Columbia: Rudin producing adaptation of Chabon's 'Union'". Variety. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  69. ^ Raymond, Nate (April 9, 2009). "Chabon Revising John Carter of Mars Script". The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  70. ^ Cairns, Becky (March 29, 2009). "Pulitzer Prize-winning author visits WSU". Ogden Standard-Examiner. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 


  • Chabon, Michael (1991). A Model World and Other Stories. New York: Avon. ISBN 0-380-71099-4. 
  • Chabon, Michael (1995). Wonder Boys. New York: Picador USA. ISBN 0-312-14094-0. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Michael Chabon (born May 24, 1963) is a Pulitzer Prize winning American author, essayist, short-story writer, and screenwriter. He is married to Ayelet Waldman.

See also: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh



  • Anything good that I have written has, at some point during its composition, left me feeling uneasy and afraid. It has seemed, for a moment at least, to put me at risk.
  • Childhood, at its best, is a perpetual adventure, in the truest sense of that overtaxed word: a setting forth into trackless lands that might have come to existence the instant before you first laid eyes on them.
  • I think it was when I got to the butterflies -- in that brief, beautiful image comprising life, death and technology -- that the hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end. All at once, the pleasure I took in reading was altered irrevocably. Before then I had never noticed, somehow, that stories were made not of ideas or exciting twists of plot but of language. And not merely of pretty words and neat turns of phrase, but of systems of imagery, strategies of metaphor.
  • I would give a good deal of money, blood, books or years to be able to watch as Amanda, in a picture hat, looked back from the vantage of a long and productive career to reject her first published efforts as uneven or only halfway there or, worst of all, as promising, or to see her condescend to them, cuddle them almost, as mature writers sometimes do with their early books, the way we give our old stuffed pony or elephant, with its one missing shirt-button eye, a fond squeeze before returning it to the hatbox in the attic.

    At bottom of this kind of behavior on the part of old, established writers is the undeniable way in which our young selves, and the books that issued from them, invariably seem to reproach us: with the fading of our fire, the diminishment of our porousness to the world and the people in it, the compromises made, the friendships abandoned, the opportunities squandered, the loss of velocity on our fastball.

  • Pity those—adventurers, adolescents, authors of young adult fiction—who make their way in the borderland between worlds. It is at worst an invisible and at best an inhospitable place. Build your literary house on the borderlands, as the English writer Philip Pullman has done, and you may find that your work is recommended by booksellers, as a stopgap between installments of Harry Potter, to children who cannot (one hopes) fully appreciate it, and to adults, disdainful or baffled, who 'don't read fantasy.' Yet all mystery resides there, in the margins, between life and death, childhood and adulthood, Newtonian and quantum, 'serious' and 'genre' literature. And it is from the confrontation with mystery that the truest stories have always drawn their power.
    • Dust & Daemons, The New York Review of Books (March 25, 2004)
  • It is in the nature of a teenager to want to destroy. The destructive impulse is universal among children of all ages, rises to a peak of vividness, ingenuity and fascination in adolescence, and thereafter never entirely goes away. Violence and hatred, and the fear of our own inability to control them in ourselves, are a fundamental part of our birthright, along with altruism, creativity, tenderness, pity and love. It therefore requires an immense act of hypocrisy to stigmatize our young adults and teenagers as agents of deviance and disorder. It requires a policy of dishonesty about and blindness to our own histories, as a species, as a nation, and as individuals who were troubled as teenagers, and who will always be troubled, by the same dark impulses. It also requires that favorite tool of the hypocritical, dishonest and fearful: the suppression of constitutional rights.
  • The imagination of teenagers is often -- I'm tempted to say always -- the only sure capital they possess apart from the love of their parents, which is a force far beyond their capacity to comprehend or control.

    During my own adolescence, my imagination, the kingdom inside my own skull, was my sole source of refuge, my fortress of solitude, at times my prison. Like all teenagers, I provisioned my garrison with art: books, movies, music, comic books, television, role-playing games. Given their nature as human creations, as artifacts and devices of human nature, some of the provisions I consumed were bound to be of a dark, violent, even bloody and horrifying nature; otherwise I would not have cared for them.

  • We don't want teenagers to write violent poems, horrifying stories, explicit lyrics and rhymes; they're ugly, in precisely the way that we are ugly, and out of protectiveness and hypocrisy, even out of pity and love and tenderness, we try to force young people to be innocent of everything but the effects of that ugliness.

    So we censor the art they consume and produce, and prosecute and suspend and expel them, and when, once in a great while, a teenager reaches for an easy gun and shoots somebody or himself, we tell ourselves that if we had only censored his journals and curtailed his music and video games, that awful burst of final ugliness could surely have been prevented. As if art caused the ugliness, when of course all it can ever do is reflect and, perhaps, attempt to explain it.

    Let teenagers languish, therefore, in their sense of isolation, without outlet or nourishment, bereft of the only thing that makes it all bearable: knowing that somebody else has felt the way that you feel, has faced it, run from it, rued it, lamented it and transformed it into art; has been there, and returned, and lived, for the only good reason we have: to tell the tale.

    How confident we shall be, once we have done this, of never encountering the ugliness again! How happy our children will be, and how brave, and how safe!

    • Nanny Nation
  • It took Marvel Comics years to begin to put together any worthwhile superheroines. The first crop was, to a gal, embarrassingly disappointing. They had all the measly powers that fifties and sixties male chauvinism could contrive to bestow on a superwoman.
    • A Woman of Valor, Alure (May 2004)
  • I suppose there is something appealing about a word that everyone uses with absolute confidence but on whose exact meaning no two people can agree. The word that I’m thinking of right now is genre, one of those French words, like crêpe, that no one can pronounce both correctly and without sounding pretentious.
    • Introduction to McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (2004)
  • The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.
  • One knew, of course, that it was not the red cape any more than it was the boots, the tights, the trunks, or the trademark “S” that gave Superman the ability to fly. That ability derived from the effects of the rays of our yellow sun on Superman’s alien anatomy, which had evolved under the red sun of Krypton. And yet you had only to tie a towel around your shoulders to feel the strange vibratory pulse of flight stirring in the red sun of your heart.
  • The Weinreichs have laid out, with numerical precision, the outlines of a world, of a fantastic land in which it would behoove you to know how to say, in Yiddish,
    250. What is the flight number?
    1372. I need something for a tourniquet.
    1379. Here is my identification.
    254. Can I go by boat/ferry to----?
    • A Yiddish Pale Fire
  • As for comics, one has only to turn to the characteristic output of Marvel Comics, for the period from about 1961 to about 1975, to find not an expression of base and cynical impulses but of good, old-fashioned liberal humanism of a kind that may strike us today, God help us, as quaint, but which nevertheless appealed, in story after story, to ideals such as tolerance, technological optimism, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.
    • Unpublished Letter of Complaint to The New York Review of Books
  • [Comics] were viewed as the literary equivalent of bubblegum cards, meant to be poked into the spokes of a young mind where they would produce a satisfying—but entirely bogus—rumble of pleasure.
    • Greasy Kids’ Stuff

Wonder Boys (1995)

  • Eight solid light-years of the thickness of that metal in which you would need to encase yourself if you wanted to keep from being touched by neutrinos. I guess the little fuckers are everywhere.
  • The young men listen dutifully, for the most part, and from time to time some of them even take the trouble to go over to the college library, and dig up one or another of his novels, and crouch there, among the stacks, flipping impatiently through the pages, looking for parts that sound true.
  • If Miss Sloviak were not already a transvestite, Crabtree would certainly make her into one.
  • I knew that I shouldn't have, but I did it all the same; and there you have my epitaph, or one of them, because my grave is going to require a monument inscribed on all four sides with rueful mottoes, in small characters, set close together.
  • Over the years I'd surrendered many vices, among them whiskey, cigarettes, and the various non-Newtonian drugs, but marijuana and I remained steadfast companions. I had one fragrant ounce of Humboldt County, California, in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment of my car.
  • The problem, if anything, was precisely the opposite. I had too much to write: too many fine and miserable buildings to construct and streets to name and clock towers to set chiming, too many characters to raise up from the dirt like flowers whose petals I peeled down to the intricate frail organs within, too many terrible genetic and fiduciary secrets to dig up and bury and dig up again, too many divorces to grant, heirs to disinherit, trysts to arrange, letters to misdirect into evil hands, innocent children to slay with rheumatic fever, women to leave unfulfilled and hopeless, men to drive to adultery and theft, fires to ignite at the hearts of ancient houses.
  • I had a certain cetacean delicacy of movement in the wide open sea of a hundred-yard field...
  • Dutifully I thumbed the rides, hopped the B & Os and the Great Northerns, balled the lithe small-town girls in the band shells of their hometown parks, held the job as field hand and day laborer and soda jerk, saw the crude spectacles of American landscape slide past me as I lay in an open boxcar and drank cheap red wine; and if I didn't, I might as well have.
  • It was in this man's class that I first began to wonder if people who wrote fiction were not suffering from some kind of disorder--from what I've since come to think of, remembering the wild nocturnal rockings of Albert Vetch, as the midnight disease.
  • A couple of years later I would marry her for a little while.
  • As a lifelong habit of marijuana I was used to having even the most dreadful phenomena prove, on further inspection, to be only the figments of my paranoid fancy...
  • "I feel great," I said, trying to decide how I did feel.
  • I'm a man who falls in love so easily, and with such a reckless lack of consideration for the consequences of my actions, that from the very first instant of entering into a marriage I become, almost by definition, an adulterer.
  • with most redheaded women what beauty she possessed was protean and odd.
  • Undressing her was an act of recklessness, a kind of vandalism, like releasing a zoo full of animals, or blowing up a dam.
  • There's nothing more embarrassing than to have earned the disfavor of a perceptive animal.
  • Every writer has an ideal reader, I thought, and it was just my good luck that mine wanted to sleep with me.
  • The overcoat was a trademark of his. It was an impermeable thrift-shop special with a plaid flannel lining and wide lapels, and it looked as though it had been trying for many years to keep the rain off the stooped shoulders of a long series of hard cases, drifters, and ordinary bums. It emitted an odor of bus station so desolate that just standing next to him you could feel your luck changing for the worse.
  • Her style was plain and poetic as rain on a daisy--she was particularly gifted at the description of empty land and horses. She lived in the basement of my house for a hundred dollars a month, and I was desperately in love with her.
  • He was a fugitive, lurking soul, James Leer. He didn't belong anywhere, but things went much better for him in places where nobody belonged.
  • Her ankles were wobbling in her tall black pumps, and I saw that it could not be an easy thing to be a drunken transvestite.
  • The whiskey tasted like bear steaks and river mud and the flesh of an oak tree. I had another swallow because it tasted so good.
  • I found myself going over a particular troublesome scene in the novel, for the one thousand and seventy-third time, in the manner of a lunatic ape in a cage at the zoo, running his fingers back and forth along the iron bars of his home.
  • Although it was only nine o'clock he had already gone once around the pharmacological wheel to which he'd strapped himself for the evening, stolen a tuba, and offended a transvestite; and now his companions were beginning, with delight and aplomb, to barf. It was definitely a Crabtree kind of night.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)

  • "To me, Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing," he would learnedly expound at WonderCon or Angoulême or to the editor of The Comics Journal. "You weren't the same person when you came out as when you went in."
    • Part I, ch. 1
  • "Forget about what you are escaping from," he said, quoting an old maxim of Kornblum's. "Reserve your anxiety for what you are escaping to."
    • Part I, ch. 2
  • [I]n 1938, Superman appeared. He had been mailed to the offices of National Periodical Publications from Cleveland, by a couple of Jewish boys who had imbued him with the powers of a hundred men, of a distant world, and of the full measure of their bespectacled adolescent hopefulness and desperation.
    • Part II, ch. 1

The Mysteries of Berkeley (March 2002)

Online text, Gourmet

  • Where passion is married to intelligence, you may find genius, neurosis, madness or rapture.
  • [I]f neuroses were swimming pools one might, like Cheever's swimmer, steer a course from my house to the city limits and never touch dry land.
  • When Berkeley does not feel like some kind of vast exercise in collective dystopia—a kind of left-wing Plymouth Plantation in which a man may be pilloried for over-illuminating his house at Christmastime—then paradoxically it often feels like a place filled with people incapable of feeling or acting in concert with each other.

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