Bibliophilic Book Challenge: Maps & Legends: Reading and writing along the borderlands by Michael Chabon
I would like to propose expanding our definition of entertainment to encompass everything pleasurable that arises from the encounter of an attentive mind with a page of literature.From the essay “Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the modern short story”
Year published: 2008
Genre: Literary essays
This is a collection of 16 interconnected essays (and a 17th supplementary essay) on literature, reading, writing and the genesis of three of Chabon’s novels. It starts with a proposition to expand the definition of entertainment (see the beginning paragraphs of the opening essay, “Trickster in a Suit of Lights”, that I already posted) and goes on to explore aspects of popular culture like short story writing, genre fiction and comic books, and their influence on Chabon and other authors.
He is unapologetic, albeit sometimes a bit defensive, about his enjoyment of genre literature, and makes the same argument as I have sometimes tried to make about genre fiction being unfairly reviled, only he does it much more elegantly than I ever could. The essays can be read separately or together, in or out of order, and can give anyone with an interest in the way in which an author gets ideas a lot of information, as well as provide the simple sensuous enjoyment of reading a well crafted text.
Chabon is an excellent essayist. These pieces sparkle with erudition and ideas, his arguments are well-supported and while the essays were originally published in different publications, they more or less echo and play off each other so that the book as a whole feels like it was purpose-written instead of gathered together. 4 stars.
I’ll end this review as I started it, with a quotation, this one from “Imaginary Homelands”, an essay about an essay the publication of which greatly upset the members of an Internet listserv dedicated to the Yiddish language and culture. He ends it with these words:
If I could outrage a few people with one little essay—how many could I piss off with an entire novel?