Synopses & Reviews
Michael Chabon's sparkling first book of nonfiction is a love song in 16 parts — a series of linked essays in praise of reading and writing, with subjects running from ghost stories to comic books, Sherlock Holmes to Cormac McCarthy.
Throughout, Chabon energetically argues for a return to the thrilling, chilling origins of storytelling, rejecting the false walls around "serious" literature in favor of a wide-ranging affection. His own fiction, meanwhile, is explored from the perspective of personal history: post-collegiate desperation sparks his debut, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh; procrastination and doubt reveal the way toward Wonder Boys; a love of comics and a basement golem combine to create the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; and an enigmatic Yiddish phrasebook unfurls into The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
"You would hardly think, reading Chabon's new book of essays, that he won the Pulitzer Prize for a book about comics. Rather, he is bitter and defensive about his love for genre fiction such as mysteries and comic books. Serious writers, he says, cannot venture into these genres without losing credibility. 'No self-respecting literary genius...would ever describe him- or herself as primarily an "entertainer,"' Chabon writes. 'An entertainer is a man in a sequined dinner jacket, singing "She's a Lady" to a hall filled with women rubber-banding their underwear up onto the stage.' Chabon devotes most of the essays to examining specific genres that he admires, from M.R. James's ghost stories to Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic work, The Road. The remaining handful of essays are more memoir-focused, with Chabon explaining how he came to write many of his books. Chabon casts himself as one of the few brave souls willing to face ridicule from whom isn't entirely clear, though it seems to be academics to write as he wishes. 'I write from the place I live: in exile,' he says. It's hard to imagine the audience for this book. Chabon seems to want to debate English professors, but surely only his fellow comic-book lovers will be interested in his tirade." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A writer of prodigious literary gifts, Chabon brings the velocity, verve, and emotional richness intrinsic to the best of short stories to his exceptionally canny and stirring essays....[A] truly entertaining collection." Booklist
"Chabon's 16 essays...argue the merits of reading, writing, and storytelling, breaking down the barriers between so-called genre writing and 'serious' literature. Affectionate and funny; a welcome and necessary addition to all collections." Library Journal
"Michael Chabon's first collection of nonfiction, makes an inviting case for bridging the gap between popular and literary writing....Vital energy and a boundless appetite for risk give these essays their electric charge." O, The Oprah Magazine
"[A] fascinating volume....Maps and Legends aptly demonstrates that Chabon is a gifted and thoughtful writer, who two decades after his extraordinary debut has not lost his ability to delight and provoke." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Michael Chabon is the bestselling author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.